Karma, Spam & Tainted Online Money

If anyone of us wanted to, we could be online media moguls that make our fortunes off popped porn, parasitic downloads, ripping scripts that hijack affiliate links, click fraud – yada yada.

I mean there are A LOT of lines one could cross if fast cash was all you wanted.

But there are a lot of good reasons to not mess around with shady things. In the end – I do not want to be involved with anything that would make my son embarrassed about what his mom is up to online.

Sometimes people forget about that part – the offline world. It can catch up to you.

Slashdot report: Olympic Medalist was Spyware King

Remy writes “Seems that Australian gold medal mogulist Dale Begg-Smith is also a spyware entrepreneur. According to a report at Spam Kings, Begg-Smith has supported himself in style as president of a company responsible for generating 20,000,000 pop-ups per day, thanks to drive-by installs of spyware.

Although IMO what Begg-Smith does online has no relevance to his physical ability or his Olympic achievements – we’re getting a reminder that Karma is a bytch baby and it’s hard to scrub off taint. No matter how great your next move or achievement is.

Pretty young kid, just 21 years old.

Do you see Olympic Gold Medal Winner – or Drive By Pop Up Parasite King?

I’m not thinking about sporting events and Olympics or gold medals and hard work and talent.

I’m looking at my computer wondering if his company was responsible for that computer ‘episode’ meltdown awhile ago. ::cranky::

His confusion at all the fuss:

At his post-race press conference overnight, Begg-Smith became irritated when more questions were asked about his business. According to Canadian press reports he said: “I don’t know why we’re talking about the company. I just won Olympic gold.”

I wonder if he gets it yet?

Massive ID Theft Ring Discovered, Culprit? Spyware!

Seriously, how any company, merchant or affiliate manager anywhere in the world ever thought that spyware was a useful, friendly neighborhood marketing method – should be shut down, locked up and tarred and feathered for good measure.

This is what we’re now reaping from the development and whitewashing of that fantabulous spyware crappola:

Massive identity theft ring

In some recent research into a spyware exploit, our research team has discovered a massive identity theft ring.

We also found the keylogger transcript files that are being uploaded to the servers.

This is real spyware stuff—chat sessions, user names, passwords, bank information, etc. We have confirmed that this data is valid…

Identity Theft Update
Massive ID Theft Ring Discovered

ComputerWorld

Officials at Sunbelt Software, a Clearwater, Fla.-based vendor of antispyware tools, said the company stumbled upon a massive ID theft ring that is using a well-known spyware program to break into and systematically steal confidential information from an unknown number of computers worldwide.

How disgusting.

Advertisers Are Not Immune From Spitzer Investigation

In my blog post yesterday Who’s In Bed With Adware?, I was tempted to start writing about the actual advertisers who pay to use this crap, the people involved and whether they’d be held liable as well (hey they’re bankrolling this). Voila, a new article:

Will Spyware Be Spitzer’s Next Big Thing?

And don’t expect Spitzer to focus only on companies that make and distribute spyware, Dreifach said.

“The companies with which they deal and companies that fund them realize that this is an illegitimate activity from which they want to distance themselves,” he said. “No one should infer … that actual advertisers that drive this activity are immune. They are not.”

I really think this is starting to cook and get interesting. Hopefully Spitzer stays committed and fights this one through to the end.

Found this over at ABestWeb

Who’s In Bed With Adware?

With the recent hubbub regarding adware, something occurred to me.

One thing I never understood is *why* some affiliate networks seemed to allow parasites to operate within their programs. Wouldn’t it have been in their *best interests* to keep the networks clean? Keep the majority of their affiliates as prosperous as possible (hey affiliates would be seeing a lot more cashola if their aff links weren’t overwritten all the time). When affiliates are making cash and seeing progress, affiliates build more. Keep that gravy coming.

That was something that just didn’t make sense to me. Why allow the parasites to be fat and happy, yet allow commissions to be shaved from the bulk of the affiliates promoting your stuff?

Recently I read a post somewhere (and I apologize for not linking to it – I can’t find it now) that explains it. Explains the adware phenomenon. Do some networks hesitate to starve parasites because the parasites are actually bringing in more money to the networks that they otherwise wouldn’t get?

Here’s how:

A visitor searches for men’s shoes in Yahoo search engine and comes across a merchant’s main website and makes a purchase. No affiliate link involved, just a straight customer direct to merchant transaction. Normally no affiliate commission would be involved and the network would have no interest in the transaction. However, since this visitor’s computer is infected with one of the bazillion spyware/parasiteware/bugs out in the wild, an affiliate transaction is recorded.

That’s where the adware/parasiteware crap comes in – it sets its own affiliate code, overwriting the original affiliate cookie, or setting one as soon as the merchant’s website is loaded. Or if the visitor types directly into the browser address bar the merchant’s website, BAM, again the parasite pops in its aff id.

The networks earn a commission on every sale an affiliate generates. The networks don’t make money when visitors shop directly with a merchant. So if parasites move in and *ensure* an affiliate transacation is recorded, even if it’s a straight customer to merchant transaction – the networks make a *BIG PILE* of cash that they normally wouldn’t be given credit for.

With Spitzer sniffing around, dirty networks must be getting nervous. How far will the Attorney General dig? Will an investigation uncover fraud on the networks part? Why call it fraud? Well if it could be shown that some affiliate networks knowingly collected commissions or charged a % of sales to merchants that parasites raked in on direct consumer/merchant transactions (outside of the network/merchant agreement), I would think that would be an overbilling or fraud issue, no?

So the next question is, if networks start scrambling to cover their tracks and boot the adwhores out, will the networks be able to stay strong financially and survive without the ‘extra gravy’ parasites have been feeding them?

I’m not done yet. 😆

I read a comment somewhere long ago that I haven’t been able to shake. That we’d be *surprised* at some of the big names involved with using 180 solutions or other adware companies to overwrite our affiliate id’s. Now I don’t know if they were talking about some big names in terms of Internet Marketers, Affiliate Marketers, or just big brand companies.

A couple threads about how easy it is to advertise with these guys and how deep these parasites are embedded in some networks:

Metrics Direct pays for newsletter ads

Higher prices when arrive through affiliate link?

CJ + COC = BULLSH!T? (2002 Thread)

Update on 180’s Exclusion List: 188 LS Merchants Dropped, Can Now Be Targeted by 180

Those threads are only a tip of the iceberg. If you really want to get a good picture of how adware affects affiliate marketing, I do suggest spending some time going through ABestWeb. Lots of good documentation there.

Before I get a little too “tinfoil hat” I’ll leave this mile long post at that. But one thing that’s clear is that the internet really can be one down and dirty shyster (duh! :lol:). Adware companies are gaining investors and big brands using them, the ripple effect is growing wider. Indies aren’t even a safe place to build now.

A healthy skepticism, a watchful eye, and sowing seeds far and wide so you’re not dependent on any one network or merchant or revenue stream is just a damn good personal Code of Conduct (COC).

How about I end this doom and gloom on a positive note? Check out this network’s thinking:

Jeff From Kolimbo

The one tool that’s missing for AM’s is a report that shows them the entire cookie trail for each transaction — what affiliate links or ads (or keywords if they are being managed through the software) were clicked on, and when, as the customer made their way to the merchant’s site. Armed with a report like that, which could easily show which affiliates were almost always taking the sale after another affiliate found the customer first, it will be very easy for merchants to spot loyalty programs that aren’t adding value or spyware that tried to take credit after another link is clicked, etc. It may also help catch cookie stuffers whose cookie shows up in many transactions but who have very low conversion rates.

While this doesn’t solve all the problems with spyware, I think it will be an important piece; most importantly it will give the AM some hard numbers they can show to decision makers that proves the value of affiliates and how some affiliates are in fact costing them money while adding no value (which is certainly the case for adware affiliates).

Kudos to Kolimbo!!

The Time Of Reckoning Is Nigh

Things really seem to be cooking lately on the adware/spyware game. Download.com boots them, an Attorney General is getting cranky with them and anti-spyware movers and shakers are turning up the heat:

Adware & Spyware- The Heat is On

Loved this part:

I’ve said it before and I will say it again- merchant’s beware. The time of reckoning is nigh and finally Pandora’s Box is about to be opened. No matter how much adware companies claim they have “reformed” they still have a lot to answer for their past behavior. Behavior that should not go unchallenged or overlooked.

CNET Download.com Says No More Spyware

CNET Download.com has announced it has zero tolerance to spyware:

Download.com

Dear Downloaders,
When it comes to fighting unwanted adware and spyware, CNET Download.com has always been in your corner. During the past few years, we’ve brought you the best tools and tips in our Spyware Center, and we’ve maintained a strict policy toward adware by allowing only software that discloses advertising partnerships during installation.

This week, we’ve upped the ante: we’re launching a new zero-tolerance policy toward all bundled adware. That means every time you download software from Download.com, you can trust we’ve tested it and found it to be adware-free–period.

Good grief this was a long time coming. They have a poll at the bottom of their announcement so you can vote on the new policy. I asked what took so long. Download.com was a hangout for me years ago. But when you stop trusting the product, you move on. I found cleaner stuff running around in the serialz crowd :lol:. But griping aside, I’m glad CNET made this move.

Score 1 for the good guys!

Maybe more will sit up and take notice and stop offering and legitimizing that crap to their visitors.

Thanks to RealTechNews for the heads up.