The spyware hunter is back, and this time he’s after sites that buy spyware traffic to force users to visit their domains. In his latest report, Ben Edelman argues publishers are buying traffic originating through spyware in order to falsely boost site traffic numbers, which can help raise ad rates.
According to Edelman:
Harm may accrue to advertisers — by overcharging them as well as by placing their ads in spyware they seek to avoid. Harm may accrue to investors, by causing them to overpay for sites whose true popularity is less than traffic statistics indicate. In any event, harm accrues to consumers and to the public at large, through funding of spyware that sneaks onto users’ PCs with negative effects on privacy, reliability, and performance.
Away.com, Bolt.com, Broadcaster.com, GrindTV.com, RooTV and Diet.com are all implicated in his report, which notes, “Video sites are strikingly prevalent in the preceding examples and in other forced-visit traffic I have observed.”
Edelman suggests advertisers wanting to keep their distance from sites driving traffic through forced methods could look for traffic spikes on sites or look at visit length, but notes neither is really foolproof. “The only robust way to detect spyware-originating forced visits is through testing of actual spyware-infected PCs — by watching their behavior and seeing what sites they show.”
Another interesting note: Edelman has built a patent-pending automated system for tracking spyware-derived traffic and other functions. He typically monitors this sort of thing manually.
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