Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead -- Claria to Shutter GAIN

News straight from the "there's justice in the world" file...

"As of July 1, the GAIN network will cease to exist and no ads will be served through the system," according to ClickZ. Hallelujah!!!!
The "G" in GAIN was for "Gator," a horrid spyware application that caused annoying popup ads to appear based on the sites people were visiting. Claria tried to soften the impact of their conduct by calling the product "adware" and renaming their company, but they never fooled us, and our memory is long.
Gator is, perhaps more than any single factor, the raison d'ĂȘtre for Stop Piracy Now. Their product nearly put our sister site, the MetroGuide Network, out of business by siphoning off users as they were trying to make hotel reservations on the HotelGuide Network. The use of Gator by one of MetroGuide's former partners, hotels.com, was the centerpiece of a lawsuit filed by MetroGuide against hotels.com. We sat in utter disbelief that a company could do what Claria was doing to web publishers and believe that it was anything other than theft. From our perspective, it was piracy, pure and simple; we did all the work and Claria got all the revenue. What they were doing had to be called out for what it was and stopped. The alternative was that independent websites would cease to exist as functioning businesses.
Claria didn't stop doing what they were doing because they had an ethical epiphany. And as much as we tried over the years to raise awareness of the effects of adware on publishers, no one cared. In the end, GAIN is coming to an end because consumers hate popups and every maker of products such as toolbars and antivirus software was targeting adware for removal. GAIN will go down with the notoriety of having spawned an entire industry of spyware removal products. What a disgraceful legacy.
Although the damage was severe, MetroGuide managed to survive. Thankfully, GAIN did not. Justice delayed may be justice denied, but at least there's some justice in the world after all.
Sayonara, GAIN. Rot in Hell. You won't be missed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Adware still alive - but dying; Direct Revenue to Pay $300,000 in attorney's fees

Clickz reports in Direct Revenue Settles Adware Suit that the "reformed" adware vendor will be paying $300,000 in attorney's fees and costs as part of a proposed settlement in the case.
We wish we all had more time to keep writing about adware, but thank goodness the problem appears to be dying a slow death, certainly without any assistance from Stop Piracy Now's opinion writing. The Direct Revenue case shows that the harm to consumers is plainly understood, and being ameliorated, but in our opinion publishers will never see justice for the lost revenue to their sites from the loatheful practice of adware. It's a shame; we'll have to chalk that round up to the bad guys.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

4,789 Stolen Records = 8 Years in Jail

The Sun-Sentinel is reporting that Scott Levine, 46, of Boca Raton, Florida was just sentenced to 8 years in prison for the theft of 4,789 computer files from a company called Acxiom Corp. Levine's company, called "Snipermail Inc," distributed Internet ads to e-mail addresses. The name Snipermail probably tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the venture.
We're happy to see judges starting to hand down serious sentences for those who use the Internet as a predatory medium. Let's hope we see more prosecutions like this one.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tiffany vs. eBay. Who's Right?

Our local paper today has an article about a lawsuit filed by Tiffany & Co. against online powerhouse eBay. Tiffany claims that 3 out of 4 of their items for sale on eBay are counterfeit. eBay counters by saying that they are just bringing buyers and sellers together, and that they never take physical possession of the goods.
Both sides have compelling arguments, and we haven't decided yet which side we support. One thing is for sure, though, every fraudulent transaction on eBay chips a little piece away from the edifice of trust needed for online marketplaces to have a chance to function. Something more needs to be done.
One entity that seems notoriously absent from all this, yet again, is our law enforcement system. It seems like they have plenty of cops capable of posing as 14 year olds to catch pedophiles (and they seem to be catching quite a few), so why don't we have more cops posing as eBay buyers to trace down these pirates of counterfeit goods? We've seen plenty of stories just here in the Metro Miami area of cops kicking down doors to bust some guy selling fake rolexes. Is the online world exempt from good old fashioned police work?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New Anti "Badware" Website

The Berkman Center has launched a new website worth paying attention to: stopbadware.org. We had not heard the phrase "badware" until today, but it sounds like a good way to sum up all the nastiness that is going on with our PC's.
We first took note of Harvard's Berkman Center a few years ago, when Ben Edelman was one of the few souls out there speaking out against the evils of spyware. Since our websites were victims of spyware, we appreciated what Berkman was doing. It looks like they are taking it to the next level. This website promises to be a valuable resource.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Now It's "Form Mail Spam." Anyone Interested in a Blacklist?

Within the last month, we started to receive a new class of spam that we hadn't specifically seen before. Bots are now filling out the "form mail" forms of our sister sites in the MetroGuide Network, presumably with the expectation that what they are doing will be posted to the target website automatically.
As a matter of history, we set up our form mail systems to deal with the problem of bots harvesting e-mail addresses posted on our sites. We think pretty much everybody has form mails for the same reason. Because the form mail sends an e-mail directly to the server, the recipient's e-mail is not exposed to the web. So, spammers apparently decided to write bots that will post stuff on site's forms. This garbage recently appeared on one of our restaurant forms:

Restaurant Name: hydrocodone
Address : hydrocodone
City: hydrocodone
State: usa
E-Mail: rarar@mail.com
Want to write a review?: Yes
Your favorite dish was: The best site ever!Thank's.
<a href="http://a-hydrocodone.ifrance.com/" <strong>hydrocodone</strong></a>
etc. etc.

The above came from IP address 81.25.43.159. Our current plans for revising the Stop Piracy Now mission is to build a real time blacklist of IP's and sites that are engaging in this tactic. This will presumably turn out to be the same people who are engaging in massive comment spam on everyone's blogs. Would anyone be interested in using such a blacklist?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who's Hoisted by Whose Petard?

Blogger now requires that new posts are passed through a captcha, where users must type in a series of displayed characters. Although this process does prevent the entry of blog posts by machines, it cannot distinguish legitimate human editors from sub-human sploggers who remain unabated in their effort to gridlock cyberspace with trash. When the typed 'captcha' characters aren't recognized or the mechanism is otherwise not functioning properly, as occasionally happens with Blogger and others, editors are effectively blocked from posting legitimate blogs by the very technology designed to protect them. The unfortunate corollary of mounting defenses against cyber-piracy is that otherwise healthy e-commerce must pollute itself with ever more sophisticated defense technologies in order to persist, just as the behavior of pirates on the high seas impeded an otherwise robust and growing shipping industry by necessitating ever more restrictive defensive measures. As with the use of chemotherapy, the hope is that the cancer will be thwarted before the patient is killed altogether.