The intentional ease with which third-party advertising firms, developers and bloggers are able to participate in the online advertising ecosystem also leaves these ad networks vulnerable to hackers, experts say. Hackers can cheaply circulate viral ads that take over Web browsers to crash other websites, and major ad networks such as Google and Yahoo have a hard time getting rid of them. The malicious ads are tough to spot because they are often served up in a rotation based on user location or previously visited sites, says Paul Ferguson, director of threat intelligence at Internet Identity, a network monitoring firm.

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