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DigitalXeron
There is a lack of sanity

join:2003-12-17
Hamilton, ON

1 recommendation

Advertisement Industry: Going too far?

All,

With the ongoing issues with download.com with download wrappers, the Java installer, some other alleged "ad-supported" software how the software is always a maze to opt-out of installing commercialized malware (toolbars, browser extensions), along with advertisements with deceptive download buttons or alleged videos with "Click here to download this codec", and not to mention all of the tracking that goes on. I believe it is time to put the advertisement industry on the spot and ask "Just how far is too far?"

While I know I posted similar things in the past but it is a topic that must be revisited often as often as us IT professionals can indeed be forgetful about these kinds of things when we know our way around and have our trusted sources of software, but to the average user, the advertisement industry is very invasive on the Internet and has actually marred many people's opinion of the Internet.

I feel that there is no checks and balances in place to keep the advertisement industry in check on the Internet, there's no blacklists with the same weight as malware databases that says "This advertisement network is doing malicious things, do not load from it". Adblock plus does not carry that weight as it basically says "This is an advertisement it is to be blocked", there's nothing about it that gives an ad network a bad name in a public manner and places pressure for them to clean up their operation.

I have many clients who know about advertisements on the Internet and have told me outright that they feel violated by many of these ads, with search results that are ad farms while the user just wants to download a pdf, with ad banners that they have trouble telling if that's a part of the website or something outside or malicious javascript redirecting their browser to different pages, and the constant pressure to download this, download that download the other with javascript and iframes foisting installers upon them directly as if they requested to download stuff.

If you're a website operator and don't have enough clout to run advertisements yourself, you rely on an ad network which many of them require you to place code that basically is a carte blanc sign-off of being able to publish anything the ad network wants with the location of the code being at their choice through restrictive contracts. For all intents, when you run advertisements through an ad network on your site, you're signing over a great deal of control over your website's operation to the ad network, Google for instance even goes as to limit what kind of content you can publish on your site for them to run ads on it (The site TVTropes got hit with Google's content restrictions).

If you're a user, there's no amount of turning off cookies that will shield you from the ad industry with your browser being fingerprinted, your social networking accounts being scraped of information, along with your computer being increasingly under seige of downloads proporting to be "for speeding up your computer" or "enhancing your user experience" or more subtle bundling of commercial adware into installers. A lot of the borderline malware is from companies like Google or Ask with their toolbars that nobody asks for or to install chrome without you expressly installing it. In my books even if it is a trusted brand and they provide checkboxes, unless those boxes are unchecked in every way as an opt in, they're partaking in malware behaviour through social engineering.

The fact there is so few ad networks that are so large across thousands of websites too opens things up for the ad network to be able to track users going from site to site, and "tailoring" ads to the user based on those sites they visit without the permission of the user to be able to collect that data. The "Do Not Track"? No marketing company will comply with that at the end of the day despite their feel-good statements they provide. The fact they're so big too means it's difficult for antimalware authors to write signatures for these pieces of malware, for instance by rights resident antivirus/antimalware should block/quarantine installations of toolbars that are bundled with installers, but they can't because they're "trusted brands".

Website operators and users alike are being reamed by the advertisement industry over and over and there's nothing in place, no standards in place to be able to fight back, no mechanisms to really fight back with without collateral damage.

Questionable site or legit site? The ads are often using the same techniques these days.
--
--Kradorex Xeron
[an error occurred while processing this signature]


novaflare
The Dragon Was Here
Premium
join:2002-01-24
Barberton, OH

1 recommendation

Man i remember back not so many years ago when you could go to download.com and grab any thing and it was 100% safe. Maybe a worthless program but safe. Now you even have anti spyware programs that install tool bars , set home page and search and the like. These behaviors are no different than the malware the program is suppose to remove. And yes im talking about adaware a previously top rated anti-spyware app now its junk ware imo.

I do not know how many times i see conduit search protect installed on comps it is far to many to count. Thankfully it is easy to uninstall but still it has no right to be installed to start with.

dave
Premium,MVM
join:2000-05-04
not in ohio
kudos:8

3 recommendations

reply to DigitalXeron
I agree with what you say, but when has the advertising industry ever behaved responsibly? I think they tend to piss in any swimming pool they're allowed in to. Observe the wasteland that is network television.


Dude111
An Awesome Dude
Premium
join:2003-08-04
USA
kudos:13
reply to DigitalXeron

This is why i prefer standalone EXEs as you know what to expect with them.... (Usually)

I either try to find EXEs or ZIPs of stuff I am looking for.....


DigitalXeron
There is a lack of sanity

join:2003-12-17
Hamilton, ON
reply to dave

Re: Advertisement Industry: Going too far?

said by dave:

I agree with what you say, but when has the advertising industry ever behaved responsibly? I think they tend to piss in any swimming pool they're allowed in to. Observe the wasteland that is network television.

I feel this is in large part why the advertising industry needs to be made aware of Internet norms and that abuse results in nasty things happening, including being publicly shamed or added to blacklists similar to how mail spammers are blacklisted by organizations (e.g. Spamhaus) seen as authoritative in "naming and shaming".

Perhaps a public database of "incidents" where technical people can report an ad for malicious activity and there'd be a scoreboard for non-technical people to be able to understand how many unique different websites use each ad network/agency that are putting forth the malicious activity and to determine if a website they use uses such an ad network. I could easily see an API being created similar to Google's own "Safe Browsing" technology for browser extensions and other sites to be able to query the database.

Basically if ad networks want to profile us, let us begin profiling them.
--
--Kradorex Xeron
[an error occurred while processing this signature]

OZO
Premium
join:2003-01-17
kudos:2
said by DigitalXeron:

if ad networks want to profile us, let us begin profiling them.

One way to do it is to use hosts file for blocking ad networks. There is a plenty of published sources of those files. Another way is to use active tools, that recognize ads on a fly and block them immediately. For example, I use Proxomitron with Sidki's filters, that does excellent job protecting all my browsers from ads. Even simple browser configuration to always block third party cookies and allow only session cookies (if at all) can make the difference. But...

I think the problem is with overall laziness and lack of education (or even elementary thinking about what's going on) of those, who daily browse the Internet. It's them, who facilitate the development of ad network. And in vast majority they don't care...
--
Keep it simple, it'll become complex by itself...


Anonymous_
Anonymous
Premium
join:2004-06-21
127.0.0.1
kudos:2
reply to DigitalXeron
I use a ad blocker even works for youtube ad;s
--
Live Free or Die Hard...


DigitalXeron
There is a lack of sanity

join:2003-12-17
Hamilton, ON

2 edits
reply to OZO
said by OZO:

said by DigitalXeron:

if ad networks want to profile us, let us begin profiling them.

One way to do it is to use hosts file for blocking ad networks. There is a plenty of published sources of those files. Another way is to use active tools, that recognize ads on a fly and block them immediately. For example, I use Proxomitron with Sidki's filters, that does excellent job protecting all my browsers from ads. Even simple browser configuration to always block third party cookies and allow only session cookies (if at all) can make the difference. But...

I think the problem is with overall laziness and lack of education (or even elementary thinking about what's going on) of those, who daily browse the Internet. It's them, who facilitate the development of ad network. And in vast majority they don't care...

As I said prior, those block lists that only serve to say "This is an ad, it is bad" will do nothing in this situation other than have collateral damage of negatively impacting smaller/medium-sized websites — they do little more than just improve user experience for the time being until the ad companies find ways around that block with new domains or javascript techniques or when they fundamentally own/control a popular site. What is in fact needed above that is something to outright state that the ad network or media agency is a bad player, that they're facilitating malicious activity, something to say "These ads served by that ad network are malicious".

At the moment individuals can filter, filter, filter but at the end of the day, indeed there is a lack of education but that's because few like I am trying to do here will educate *WHY* ad networks are negatively impacting the Internet, what they are doing and to name names critically of companies doing these acts, not just domain names, but to take who's behind those domains and show to the world what brands are pushing these malicious activities. For instance, with download.com, it's easy to say "Don't download from there, it's bad" and nothing further said on it, but it's harder to say things like "download.com which is owned and operated by CBS Interactive is pushing malware and is displaying unclear advertisements in a hazardous manner".

These blocklists are often not even looked at to see what's on them, and what is omitted, I wager less than 10% of users actually review the lists even in terse to see what names are on them, just chucking them into the ad blocker and going about their merry way, no education, no nothing.

I don't expect everyday users to be 100% educated on the matter, but it'd serve us well to outline the problems going on that extend beyond just the ad banners on websites into the general media forum where ad networks and advertising companies are in possession of entire popular websites (download.com, Google.com) or have great influence over other websites (various with Facebook) and can obtain information of users easily.
--
--Kradorex Xeron
[an error occurred while processing this signature]


carpetshark3
Premium
join:2004-02-12
Idledale, CO
Reviews:
·CenturyLink
reply to DigitalXeron
I worked with radio advertising at one point - the company placed it. We got every damn marketing trade magazine, and I think I read most of them. The statements of what they hoped to accomplish just plain disgusted me. One of the salespeople told me that I was a PITA to marketing. I simply don't fit my demographic.

I do have Adblock, keep forgetting I have it since I use NoScript and Tab permissions. Doubleclick, Groupon and Bing are already in the hosts file. I have the browser set to dump everything on close, and since I like Yahoo groups, I close the browser after reading, then reopen. I don't mind logging in every time. I use phrases, so remembering passwords is not a problem.

I've rooted my Android phone, and got rid of most of Google's services. I can't get rid of them entirely, since I need apps. Most of my apps are reference - birding and nature guides, astronomy, geology downloads. Don't do social media on phone - that's been deleted. Bluetooth and NFC disabled. The phone was bought unlocked, so no carrier crap.

I don't discuss personal stuff on social media - FB account is to keep up with kid's zoo. Most postings deal with animals. One discussion was about the water hippos like. Called Shit Stew. If FB thinks it can market that ----- I don't hit like, either.
I don't game - I have a super old solitaire game I play and that's it. I also signed up before the mania for real names. I must have 25 or so different personas on different forums.

I do post to fora - but no personal stuff about what I like or don't like, and won't endorse or say I like any brands.

The products I do like and use are either not marketed directly, or they are fair trade and no price. You have to find local dealer. Local dealer too small for that type of marketing - they get their names appended as where to buy.

I haven't seen many ads - I see written stuff in Yahoo, it's written since I turn off images. The worst place is Digital Photography Review. I think Amazon now owns it.
Astronomics owns Cloudy Nights, their ads do appear, but not obnoxiously. If I do like an Android app, I email the developer. He/She can post it somewhere.

I mostly look at tutorials on Youtube, and since I won't sign in, I can't comment. I do have a throwaway Gmail addy used for spam if I need to sign in, but it isn't connected with my phone.

The signups to ad agencies bothers me. Android has many apps with push advertising. Even if you delete the app, the ads are still there and pushed to the phone. I don't mind a developer making some money, but he/she should be allowed to say what ads run. One free app I was trialling had ads I don't think I would want on a kid's phone. The app itself was for all ages.

I remember teaching my kid that all advertising was BS.