Take the money out of spyware

Take the money out of spyware

Summary: Spyware companies make a lot of money by delivering ads, but what advertiser would want to be associated with spyware? Gambling and porn sites seem pretty indifferent to how they get their advertising seen, but often you see more reputable companies being advertised via spyware.

TOPICS: Malware
Spyware companies make a lot of money by delivering ads, but what advertiser would want to be associated with spyware? Gambling and porn sites seem pretty indifferent to how they get their advertising seen, but often you see more reputable companies being advertised via spyware. These companies are usually buffered from the spyware companies by an Internet advertising network, such as DoubleClick, Revenue Science, or 24/7 Real Media. Reputable companies contract with an Internet advertising network to deliver a certain number of ads. In turn, Internet advertising networks buy space on Web sites to get these ads shown to the public. Spyware companies also deal with advertising networks, delivering ads through pop-ups.

So if you want to block spyware, you can go after the ad servers as well as the spyware on your computer. While researching this topic, I found the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), an organization created by advertising networks to uphold privacy and fair trade practices. The NAI site includes an opt-out page, designed to let you opt out of the cookies generated by advertising networks. I tried it, and it didn't work in Firefox at all. With Internet Explorer, I was able to opt out of cookies by about half of the NAI member networks.

That result was disappointing. Another option is to go nuclear, by blocking ad servers in your hosts file. Every Windows computer has a hosts file, a list of Internet addresses and their associated IP numbers. For a better explanation of the hosts file, read this article. Various Internet users have compiled lists of ad servers. You can add these to your hosts file, telling your computer to look to itself for the IP number instead of looking for it on the Internet. The result is a lot of blocked ads. The problem with this approach is that you will block a lot of Web site banner advertising, cutting the revenue for your favorite sites. There should be a better way to take the money out of spyware. Internet advertising networks should refuse to do business with them, as should any direct advertiser.

Topic: Malware

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  • Thank You!

    I've always thought it would be interesting to talk to a spyware writer. I'd only have one question for him/her - "How does it feel knowing that what you spend X hours a day programming is hated by the general public so much that other people are using their spare time to write programs dedicated to wiping out your work, and these programmers are giving theirs away for free?"

    It would be an interesting sight to see a spyware-free internet again. At the same time, I think that spyware is going to follow the Napter/Kazaa model. If Spyware is banned, they'll find some way to distribute their ads online in an equally annoying way. Advertisers always find a seemingly endless supply of places to advertise. I have no doubt they'll find a way in a post-spyware internet (if there is one).
  • Immunize

    To block spyware server sites, I've used SpywareBlaster, as well as the immunize feature in Spybot S&D. I haven't had any spyware found on my machine in quite sometime (I've scanned using Ad-Aware SE, Spybot S&D, Microsoft's Beta, and HijackThis), but back before HijackThis, I found that the above two immunized my machine pretty well against most spyware ads.
  • How much does a convict make in prison these days?

    • You're overlooking

      1. 3 meals a day

      2. A bed.

      3. Free medical and dental care.

      4. Free educational training.

      That's more than a lot of the poor people in this country have. They have not committed any crime, yet we treat our criminals better than them.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • Ok, how much does a .45 slug cost?

        • re

          not that much..I would personally donate a few boxes!! :P
        • Yeah, give 'em a "Chairman Mao"....

          Then bill their relatives for the cost of the bullet.
          Hallowed are the Ori
  • Can't do it.. they win

    I do my own hosts file among other things. My computer is a tank going through a playground when I get on the net.. no one can touch me. But as far as the common home user, they are screwed. The internet vandalism will keep on and computers keep getting ruined while spyware makes money. But it inspires me to never click an ad for the rest of my life. I hate most advertising even out of computers now because of adware.
    MIS Master
  • Go After Their Wallet!!

    The only way to get rid of Ad-Ware/SpyWare/Spam is to go after them where it hurts. MONEY!! 90% of the time when a popup/adware gets loaded onto your computer you have no idea whether it gets there from a "surf-by" install, EMail install or attached to a program you install, so trying to figure out who to sue for "STEALING YOUR COMPUTER RESOURCES" (and that's what it is, stealing. Bandwidth, memory, diskspace, processor cycles) is next to inpossible. However if you attack (read SUE) the revenue source you can hit the spammers/AdWare scum where it hurts. If a popup for VIAGRA shows up on my computer as a result of AdWare, I would be hard pressed to try to find the particular site/program which delivered the ad. However, finding the site that is paying for the ad to be delivered is as simple as click, copy, paste. So you sue the company who's trying to sell you the VIAGRA. In NJ You can sue someone in small claims court for as little as $15 and since the popup is delivered to your computer you could argue that the company is doing business locally. The next question is "What do I sue for?" I'm trying for A: The cost of the computer. (I bought it, not the online pharmacy) $650. B: My ISP service (If I wanted to get information about their product I would have ask) $45 C: AGGREVATION!!! (It's a public nuisance!!) Let's say $305. That makes it a nice round $1000 total. Next step is to let the company know you are suing them. Getting in touch with the company is again as easy as going to the web site, click on "Contact Us" and send them an EMail letting them know you are why you are suing them, where and when the court date is. (If there isn't a contact us link on the page check out their sales link. They pay close attention to that order now button.) Next, wait for the court date and hope you get a judge who has tried to get rid of the spyware on his computer. Now the big question, Will you win? Maybe, maybe not. If the company doesn't show you might win by default. If they do show it's 50/50. It's even possible that the court might dismiss the case for one reason or another. REMEMBER, The main idea here to try to get the companies to rethink their advertising stratgy. If it starts COSTING the companies more money to use adware/spam than it makes them they will start taking those advertising dollars somewhere else. Just for the company to show up for court will cost them whether you win or not and if I lose I'm only out $15. And if I win. Woo Hoo!! It's mad money time. The point here is if I sue some website selling VIAGRA, so what, win or lose it's probably not going to hurt them but if 10% of the people who receive that popup (1000 people?, 10000?, 100000? adware delivers lots of popups) sue them. That could really put a crimp in their wallet defending those cases. So come on people, let's hit them where it hurts.
    I'll post the results next month after the court date.

    For help filing Google or Yahoo "small claims court, your state"
  • Since these guys like play spooks

    What would Wild Bill Donovan do if the ethics of the OSS were still around? ;)