"who first posed as a legitimate advertiser, then started hitting site visitors with aggressive advertisements that appeared to be warnings about viruses."
In a longer story published by the Times yesterday, it explained that:
"As reports of strange activity came in over the weekend, the technical and advertising staff at The Times began to suspect that a rogue ad had slipped through this way, and they moved to stop displaying such ads, said Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman for the Times Company.
But it now appears that the ad was approved by the site’s advertising operations team, Ms. McNulty said. People visiting nytimes.com continued to complain about the pop-up ads throughout the weekend.
'Our first instinct was that it was a third-party ad network,' said Marc Frons, chief technology officer of the Times Company. 'That is where we looked first and why it took a longer amount of time to shut down. The other issue is that it was sporadic and difficult to reproduce.'
The creator of the malicious ads posed as Vonage, the Internet telephone company, and persuaded NYTimes.com to run ads that initially appeared as real ads for Vonage. At some point, possibly late Friday, the campaign switched to displaying the virus warnings.
Because The Times thought the campaign came straight from Vonage, which has advertised on the site before, it allowed the advertiser to use an outside vendor that it had not vetted to actually deliver the ads, Ms. McNulty said. That allowed the switch to take place. 'In the future, we will not allow any advertiser to use unfamiliar third-party vendors,' she said."
The Times, which says it doesn't know how many readers were affected, appears pretty embarrassed by the whole affair.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.