Monday, May 21, 2007

Ouch, the irony of the aQuantive / MSFT deal

One of the dirty secrets of the malware industry is the identity of those that pay good money - BIG money - for all those pop-up ads. The delivery method for so many unwanted in-your-face targeted ads is via what we in the security industry refer to as "Adware" . . . or the more politically correct term "Malware."

180Solutions, WhenU, Gator, and several others play this game (or played - a couple claim to have gone mostly "clean" during this last year) by infecting computers with unwanted software that forces targeted ads on end-users based on a profile built by monitoring browsing habits. It's really sticky when someone gets infected with several competing malware applets and that nice high powered computer slows down to pre-i486 speeds.

It's so bad that a new industry focused on preventing and cleaning up malware has sprung into existence during the last few years, bringing us bandages like AdAware, Spybot, Spyware Doctor, Spysweeper, CounterSpy . . . and Windows Defender aka Windows Live protection services. Yeah, that Windows. From Microsoft. Remember that as I continue this rant.

Who orders those pop-up ads and funds malware companies?

Among several of the really big players that fund intrusive malware based advertising, aQuantive stands out in my mind after Fridays news that Microsoft is buying them for Six. Billion. Dollars. An overpriced desperate gesture on Ballmer's part in the face of Google's recent acquisition of DoubleClick (another source of funds for those malware applets.)

Want some eye popping proof? Check the hits from this Google search.

For an overview of money flow in malware based online advertising, check out Benjamin Edelman's article Intermediaries' Role in the Spyware Mess It's an older article, but still relevant today.

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