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Thursday, May 20, 2004

12:29:00 AM Cry Far
I'm fighting a losing battle. The latest and meanest spyware programs have started to show signs of a serious outbreak that could quite possibly add up to more production loss then virus infection alone. Twice in the last few weeks I've encountered two separate computers that were infected with variants of the CoolWebSearch trojan, one being my own (as I mentioned previously) and another at my office!

Computers across the internet are quietly being infected through exploits in internet explorer, outlook and windows and the Anti-Virus companies have sat by and done nothing. They've done nothing because its a gray area in many respects-- some spyware you get when you install a free program and removing that spyware would be going against the terms of service of that program, hence antivirus companies would be exposing themselves to some liability if they began removing spyware or blocking spyware for you. But then there are the machines like mine where spyware snuck in while I simply browsed some webpage or viewed an email in outlook with embedded html. It was probably not even from the webpage I was viewing but instead embedded in some advertisement inside of that webpage, unbeknownst to the webmaster and probably unbeknownst to the advertising network. The same rogues who abuse email systems and send out spam are abusing existing affiliate marketing platforms to make a quick buck with adware/spyware.

Affiliate marketing, ultimately, is the catalyst for all of this-- I'm willing to bet that you can chart the rise of spam against the rise of affiliate marketing programs and their efficiency at which they can sign people on as affiliates. In case you haven't heard of Affiliate marketing, let me break it down for you:

I, Walter's Weblog, sell widgets. Now, I could spend a lot of time trying to run ad campaigns that include bulk email, google ads, search engine optimization to get my pages highly ranked, banner ads, etc... OR.. I could concentrate on SELLING the widgets and instead rely on AFFILIATE MARKETING to solve my marketing problem for me. How? Well all I do is whip up a simple interface that lets people sign up with say, a paypal account or something, and I issue them a unique ID. For every hit that comes to my website with that unique ID stamped on it I will pay that person oh say... a tenth of a cent or something. And for every SALE that hit brings I'll cut em a percentage of that sale.
Thats affiliate marketing.. and you can see the potential for abuse there. Turnkey affiliate marketing systems are a dime a dozen and theres an entire subindustry built around running affiliate marketing programs for e-commerce sites. Most of this stuff was developed in the adult porn site realm, as are many other web "innovations" despite what you may have heard :).

Annnnnnyywayysss, spam, adware, popups and spyware were basically created by affiliate marketers in order to make a quick buck! Its so farking simple its pathetic, nearly every tool you need to do this can be googled in an instant-- bulk mailers, affiliate websites to sign up for and get ID#s for to spam with, email lists to send emails to, etc. You hit a million email addresses, get that .0001% signed up and you've just made $1000! (assuming a $20 sign up fee and 50% payout to affiliates as described in the article, atleast for adult sites). But with ADWARE you sneak a program on to someones computer and instead of hoping that they open your spam you suddenly blast their computer screen with it! This brings up the # of people who click and signup significantly enough to make this type of illegal and sleazy marketing worth it apparently, and as technology advances on their side things are only going to get worse. I think you can also chart the increase in adware against the increased use of advanced spam filters as well-- more and more spammers are just turning to adware. While virus writers tend to be young men who do it for nerdy or geeky reasons, these guys have serious monetary gains to make and when/if Norton/Mcafee start rolling out serious anti-adware/spyware programs the other side will only escalate things with more complex and nasty adware. The problem with adware is that were not dealing with your typical virus writer, a single person who does it for technical prowess/bragging rights, instead we've got something much more serious:

Organized Crime baby. Yep, this is their new bag and they are rolling in the dough! When they get involved all bets are off, because they will bribe, cheat and kill their way until they've got what they want. Scary stuff. Now, certainly, affiliate marketing programs are aware of the spammers and the scammers, but while they say "OMG WE BANZOR PPL WHO SPAM", in reality they are making money too and their is little incentive for them to punish their affiliates, and even when they do its rarely the case that the violator affiliate can't just signup and create a new account all over again. Or worse, the mafia won't LET them ban the 'rogue affiliate'.

And while spam has just NOW finally gotten the attention of the nation and things are barely starting to roll on actually doing something about it, the yelling and screaming about adware/spyware has only just begun. My fear is that by the time Microsoft readies XP SP2 (which will supposedly finally secure windows from this kind of stuff, hah yeah right), and any laws with TEETH get passed, it will be too late and EVERYONE will be forced to do what I'm faced with doing--


And now headlines:

  • People will do anything for a GMAIL account apparently
  • You thought if you didn't use Windows you were safe? Think again!
  • Huh, Cuecat 2.0 who woulda thought? Guess the original was just ahead of its time? :P
  • More Iraqi prisoner abuse photos. These soldiers in the pictures smiling and pointing are fucked up, seriously.

    Ahh well. I may not have to format after all, might just install a parallel copy of XP and kinda start over with that, NOT USING INTERNET EXPLORER or IE based web browsers like my favorite fallen hero Avant Browser and also employing programs like SpywareBlaster to keep spyware off my computer for good in the first place. Longhorn can't come sooner.

    Current Mood: Sleepy time!
    Current Music: Chromatique - Numbers

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  • Thursday, May 13, 2004

    12:05:00 AM Dr. Paul Bearer
    So I attended my first pretty much full funeral today.. I attended a viewing, a mass and even the graveside ritual. Oh yeah I was also a pallbearer! It was Tara's Grandmother who had passed away, Marion Nash, and they needed another pallbearer so they asked me if I would do it. So I stepped up and did it. Wow it was interesting. Kinda nice to use a coffin though, because once the casket is closed it doesn't really have the same effect and even though you know theres a body inside its easy to not pay attention to the fact that there is one inside. It was a religious experience for me... very interesting. Rest in peace, Grandmas and Granddads.

    Took a nap today for the first time in a while :).. I'm not a nap person, I hate going to sleep when its not sleepy time because I feel like I'm wasting time.. but I only took a nap after the realization that I've really been too tired lately and that my energy levels haven't been at a good enough height to kick enough ass :). I've been spinning my wheels when I should have driven up the mountain already! We got a window put in on the east side of the house, and that means we'll be pulling up carpet and painting and crafting a real master bedroom finally! Right now we live in our "guest bedroom" because the master bedroom has needed some work for some time... oh.. over 2 years now :P.. so we've finally got work started on that room and I'm hoping that will inspire me to continue doing good stuff around the house!

    Yep. Man that Iraqi prisoner photo stuff is sad :( And the beheading of Nicholas Berg is even sadder :(. I saw some stills from the video and read the transcript.. I don't know whats more disturbing, the fact that they yell "god is great" while they are beheading him or just the actual beheading itself... I have access to the actual video but I've chosen not to watch it.. I saw the Daniel Pearl video and that was pretty bad... altho what I found interesting in that video was that they killed him first and THEN beheaded him.. from the stills and description of this new video it seems like they kill him BY beheading him. Ok screw it, I'm gonna watch it. Ok for the record it takes them 2 full minutes to finish when they start but the guy seems to die pretty much instantly. He screams :(. They try to drown out his scream by chanting "allah ackbar" over and over.. its disturbing and just appalling that anyone would ever do that to anyone. I went back and wrote about half of this paragraph re-reading my post before posting so the rest of this is gonna seem pretty damn out of context but here's the rest of this post:

    Pretty excited about The Nintendo DS-- that seems very very interesting. Ahh well. Tomorrow is THURSDAY. How in the hell?

    Interesting links of the day:

  • Hybrids apparently aren't all they are cracked up to be
  • Gmail spam go go go!
  • Kerry=Sure Winnar?

    And finally, your moment of zen.

    Current Mood: zen? from half-life? get it? GET IT? tiny bats are cool.

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  • Thursday, May 06, 2004

    Yep. more Iraqi prisoner abuse pics showed up today... :(. Also I read some articles discussing the motives for the abuse and the bottom line is these guys were trying to figure out where Saddam was-- Saddam what?? Suprise- these pics are from November 2003! Doh! They knew about it back then too!

    Next up, TiVo going the way of Netscape? Doesn't it seem similar? Lessee.. Microsoft starts bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, Cable Operators start offering DVR boxes with cable service.. now people don't have to download Netscape to browse the web, its alreayd on there-- now people don't have to go shopping for anything, they just check the "add DVR to my service" box and its installed for them in their home. I always thought TiVo was cool but once I saw DVRs in cable boxes (which I have and LOVE), I knew that their days were numbered.. atleast as independent vendors (they've already licensed their brand and technology to satellite tv providers).

    Finally, your moment of Zen.

    Current Mood: Gums hurt boooo
    Current Music: DarkMateria - The Picard Song

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    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    Yeahp. I'm building a thesis on something... and I'm sure its been touched on before, but its something that is illustrated very crisply by the ridiculous trucker hat.

    I'd say that SomethingAwful (NWS) is one of the original entities responsible for what we've seen manifesting in the form of Ashton Kutcher as of late.... and the sad thing is I'm about a year too late in addressing it on my weblog here.. (hopefully!). I mean, the only problem I have with all this crap is when people take it SERIOUSLY. :( I feel so sorry for them, thinking that its actually SEXY or something. Nooooooooooooo its supposed to be the OPPOSITE! And funny at the same time!

    Annnyways, what I'm trying to do is put a finger on a name for all of this.. I'm calling it 21st Century Ironicism or "dork chic" for short. Its the ironic part, not the dork part, that is important here I think. I mean... just read some of the stuff on SomethingAwful-- the JeffKs, the Awful Link of the Day, the Cliff Yablonski picture archive, the pranks, etc.. see where I'm going? Yep, SomethingAwful is like JackAss, Punk'd and Sifl and Olly all wrapped up into one awesome website!

    Anyways, keeping all this in mind makes my work day just a little extra silly when coworkes send emails in ALL CAPS. Are they trying to be FUNNY? OR ARE THEY YELLING? WE MIGHT NEVAR KNOWWWWWWW

    Wedding pics yo!

    Current Mood: lowercase in your face!

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