Posts tagged ‘corruption’


Here’s more about Google Adsense delivering malware and malicious code

07.04.2013

I wasn’t too far off the mark with my last post. It’s not unlikely that what was placed into our site by hacking during the small hours of Saturday morning was Google Adsense code: here’s an article entitled, ‘Google AdSense Potential Source of Malware’ at Resources for Life.
   While ours was more serious, because it involved hacking, Google’s openness and the lack of quality control by its partners (and by itself?) for its Adsense system is still problematic.
   It’s the age-old problem: you want to be more open, but with that comes a flood of less than scrupulous folks who take advantage of it.
   What jumped out at the Resources page was this:

How it Happens. Hackers write malicious program code into the ads. Maybe they submit legitimate code initially then change it for malicious code. Either way, those ads eventually get served up on your site. Either the ad javascript itself, or the places it takes your site visitors, or fake messages making your site visitor think their computer is infected. These ads violate the Federal Trade Commission laws on false advertising, but since everyone’s making money of[f] it, nobody complains.

   Well, not everyone’s making money. The publisher’s site gets blacklisted and it takes days for that to be lifted, so the earnings go down. Who gains? The hackers and Google.
   There’s something to be said sometimes about closing things off, especially if they are subject to abuse. The cited article dates from 2012, and a linked forum has posts going back to 2011, so these issues have gone on for some time. The latter makes for sobering reading, with quotations such as:

I recently was getting a daily notice where users were randomly getting malware warnings popping up on their browser when on my site. I shut off all Google Adsense and this immediately stopped.

I was too having a similar problem. Just the difference was that, the suspected cause was malicious Analytics Code. As soon as I removed, the entire problem was solved. Google must look into this as soon as possible.

I’ve reported this to them and posted in their help forums but they have been non responsive. It is definitely being delivered through Adsense and I suspect their ‘trusted 3rd party’ network.

   The other ad networks we deal with have done a better job with screening. Of the main ones we dealt with, I can only think of an incident back in 2007, with some fake Careerbuilder ads. Maybe we should turn the clock back—or the ad networks should insist that we not deal with certain parties.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Google clears our ad server of any malicious code, but continues to block our sites

06.04.2013

All of the sites that carry advertising from our ad server (ads.jyanet.com) were blacklisted by Google yesterday, including this one. In fact, Google still blacklists them, despite Google and Stop Badware clearing the server of any problems.
   Here’s the kicker: the code that was injected by hackers appears to be Google Adsense code. If true, this means that Google provides hackers with code, hackers use the code, Google blacklists the sites. Have a look below to see if that’s the case.
   I remember that any schmuck can get a Google Adsense account, so they aren’t choosy. (I applied for one many years ago, which I had for six months. Believe me, it was really easy.)
   If it is Google Adsense, it wouldn’t be the first time their own code was dodgy. There had been instances where McAfee, on my computer, blocked ads on one of our sites and, when investigated, those ads turned out to be Doubleclick ones, i.e. they were from Google’s own ad network. Very big sites get targeted—unfortunately, very big sites appear to get all-clears from big companies like Google rapidly (because they affect their bottom line more?).
   Whatever the source, the hackers used their code and decided to piggyback off legitimate ad-serving websites, including ours. We fixed the vulnerability that led to this within hours of learning about it, but, as usual, we’re disappointed that Google and Stop Badware haven’t caught up after over 24 hours that things are sorted.
   I’ve pasted the warning from Google below, a shot of our OpenX installation describing the code (it looks like Google Adsense to me—is it? Or is it just based on parameters of their code so the hackers’ Adsense account profits from the activity?) and a screen shot of where the dodgy stuff Google believes it came from, namely a domain owned by one William Oster in New York. (These are from my Tumblog.) [Note: Mr Oster might not even know about this and that his OpenX installation was the victim of the same hack. The hackers could well have placed the malware on his server and spread things from there.]

   I’d like the solution to be tougher guidelines on everyday users getting Adsense accounts. Let’s hope things are harder today than they were in the 2000s. There are a lot of honest people using Adsense, so it’s fine to argue that it’s unfair to affect everyone because of a few bad eggs. Every ad network needs to be more stringent on who can advertise, too.
   Most of the larger, legitimate ad networks that I know of make things stricter, and your site has to have proven traffic and a decent track record before they’ll let their ads be shown on them.
   My guess is that Google isn’t about to change its policies because it does very well from casting its net far and wide. The last I looked, the ad business was worth US$3,600 million to them.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Occupy, the brand

27.11.2011

Serious! "Occupy Wall St"
VBlessNYC, under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

It was in the fourth quarter of the year that Occupy became a brand. Just capitalize it, and everyone knows what you mean. The original geographical indicator of Wall Street disappeared—to be fair, it began disappearing when similar protests began happening across the United States and then, the world—but I’ve only noticed in the last few weeks that the simple utterance of the word Occupy brought with it a multitude of values. That’s what a brand does: it’s shorthand or code for a range of associations.
   But what associations? If one believes some of the media, then Occupy is unfocused, with its protesters simply upset at the status quo. Others see it as an attack on the technocratic agenda and the multiple facets they possess, whether it’s the financial system being broken (something Chris Macrae brought up at my first Medinge meeting back in 2002) or corruption in politics.
   The truth, at least initially, was probably somewhere in between. I never believed Occupy was one where there was some “protester class” (at least one media outlet believed that), and that its members came from a cross-section of society, even if a few of the international protests brought out a few of the usual suspects from antiestablishment groups. It was clear, early on, certainly from the social networks that brought more direct news than the mainstream corporate media, that everyday people were involved. To me, the most poignant images were probably that of retired cop Capt Ray Lewis getting cuffed by the NYPD.
   However, there were so many conflicting emotions at Occupy that it would be hard to sum up just what people opposed. Maybe it was very hard to voice because there are so many parts to the system that they see is broken. I know when we did our post-Enron session at Medinge, we probably had three dozen Post-It notes on a whiteboard summarizing what we thought was wrong with the business system. They were then synthesized into eight points, not without some effort.
   As the protests wore on, the synthesis has taken place. It’s not an unusual phenomenon: gatherings of people can take time to figure out, through dialogue, what their common grounds are. Better doing it this way, codifying through dialogue, than having a set of values imposed on you from above: it’s a way to preserve authenticity in the movement. A good set of values that represents an organization, in a formal, corporate setting, is usually the result of in-depth research into staff, channel members and external audiences. In the branding world, especially with social networks empowering communications, it makes more sense to harness people’s thoughts through the technology we have at our disposal.
   It was interesting reading what Naomi Wolf had to say about Occupy in The Guardian. The crux of her article is not about brand whatsoever—she highlights potentially dangerous patterns as crackdowns take place and their implication for the US—but read on and she finds out there are certain things that Occupy wants through simply asking its supporters online:

  • get the money out of politics (e.g. ‘legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process’);
  • ‘reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act … This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks’;
  • ‘draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.’

       No doubt there will be variations of these with Occupy movements in other parts of the planet.
       I don’t know Ms Wolf’s processes, or how academic this Q&A was, but perhaps that is not the question here. What we should realize is that the movement is taking a more defined shape, and the media’s contention that this is something unfocused is getting weaker by the day.

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    Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, politics, USA | 2 Comments »


    How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

    02.11.2010

    I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
       As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
       On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
    ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
       He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
       So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
       Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
       ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
       No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
    Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
       But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
       These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

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    Posted in branding, business, cars, leadership, politics, TV, UK | 1 Comment »