The Spam Diaries

News and musings about the fight against spam.
 by Edward Falk

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adware: Following the money

The Register has an interesting article about a report by the Centre for Democracy and Technology, which has tracked adware back to the people who pay for it: Adware backers named and shamed.

The report (pdf) describes in some detail the interconnections between advertisers, advertising agencies, affiliates, adware vendors, and software vendors. The report runs ten pages long, including charts, and is well worth reading. In short, the network of advertising and adware resellers can become so long and complex, that an advertiser has little chance of even knowing that they paid to have scumware installed on consumers' computers, let alone finding out who was responsible.

The worst malware vendor of the lot seems to be 180solutions (I wrote about them in January).

As a case study, CDT contacted eighteen companies that advertised with 180solutions in regard to their advertising policies. CDT received responses from eight: five had adware policies but were advertising with 180solutions anyway (probably unknowingly). Two established adware policies in response to their contact with CDT. One terminated its relationship with 180solutions upon seing the CDT report. Netflix was one of the five; they assured CDT that the ad served by 180solutions had been unique and random, but CDT found three more examples.

CDT did not receive responses from True.com, PerfectMatch, Club Med, LetsTalk.com, uBid, ProFlowers, NetZero, PeopePC, Altrec, or Waterfront Media.

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