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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador cusimano's Avatar
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    I posted the following message at Amazon.com's discussion board and I'm reposting it here also... (substitute "amazon.com" with any merchant)

    I'm not an expert on BHO's, however, my understanding is that there are at least two types of BHO scumware methods (possibly more):

    1. direct substitution of webmaster's affiliate ID in URL's located on the webmaster's webpage.

    2. leave the webmaster's link as-is and only after the user clicks through and arrives at Amazon.com, display a pop-up with a link containing the scumware's affiliate ID with an enticement for the user to click on the link in the pop-up window.

    Based on the above, I'm thinking of a possible two-pronged approach that us affiliates can use to fight these scumware methods:

    1. Use "redirect" to fight scumware method #1 (to prevent re-writing):

    On the webmaster's website use a simple redirect script located on the webmaster's site such that the links on the webmaster's site link to a redirect. The link would include Amazon's ASIN number for the product. Then the redirect script would redirect to amazon.
    For example, on the webaster's site:

    /cgi-bin/jump?ASINNUMBER which redirects to the standard amazon.com affiliate URL www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/...ASIN (etc.)

    The issue to determine with this method is whether the scumware will re-write the redirect link. Does the scumware only modify HTML or can it also modify a redirect?


    2. Use "cookie write-protect" to fight scumware method #2 (to handle the pop-up):

    Have Amazon.com "write-protect" the cookie for a short period of time such as 1-minute. When the user clicks on a link on the webmaster's site the webmaster's ID's is locked in the cookie for a minimum period of time (e.g. 1-minute) and cannot be overwritten for a short period of time. Therefore, when the scumware pop-up comes up and if the user clicks on it, the cookie still shows the original webmaster's ID. This solution has to be implemented at Amazon.com's end -- probably not hard to do, just depends whether Amazon wants to do it. Obviously, this is not a perfect solution because there are some occurences where you would want to overwrite the cookie within that 1-minute, but probably 99% of the time it is scumware trying to overwrite the cookie in such a short period of time.

    The issue with this method is what is a reasonable period of time to defeat the scumware (1-min, 2, 5, 10, 30-min?), yet allow legitimate re-writes.

    Any thoughts on these "redirect" and "write-protect" approaches?

    Yours truly,
    Cusimano.Com Corporation
    per: David Cusimano

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador cusimano's Avatar
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    I have set up an experimental test page at my website that contains a standard amazon.com affiliate link and also a redirect link to the same product.

    If anyone has a BHO installed that rewrites links, try the two links on my page and let me know what happens. The experimental test page is at: http://www.cusimano.com/scripts/goamazon/ (Note: this page uses "AMAZONIDHERE" as the amazon.com affiliate ID rather than my affiliate ID). Let me know what happens.

    Yours truly,
    Cusimano.Com Corporation
    per: David Cusimano

  3. #3
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    Hi David, if BHO means scumware, I've got Surf+, WhenU, TopText installed and clicked your links and they both show AMAZONIDHERE at destination.

    Bernie
    (have those all to see what they're doing to my pages, not because I like them)

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador John Kruger's Avatar
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    Can I get a copy of your jump script? It will give me a place to start.

    Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.

  5. #5
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Bernie,

    Hi and Welcome to ABW!

    All the Parasites you listed do not use a BHO, so wouldn't see the re-write.

    Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli


  6. #6
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    quote:
    Originally posted by Haiko:
    Bernie,

    Hi and Welcome to ABW!http://abestweb.com/smilies/welcome.gif

    All the Parasites you listed do not use a BHO, so wouldn't see the re-write.

    Haiko_


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli_




    The newer scum would be immune to such techniques as well.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador cusimano's Avatar
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    quote:
    Originally posted by TeamPB:
    Can I get a copy of your jump script? It will give me a place to start.


    TeamPB:

    The goamazon.pl script is available for free from my website.

    The parameter to the script is the ASIN of the product you want to link to. If you want ref=nosim, then add "/ref=nosim" after the ASIN.

    Let me know the results you get.

    Yours truly,
    Cusimano.Com Corporation
    per: David Cusimano

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador cusimano's Avatar
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    quote:
    Originally posted by Bernie:
    Hi David, if BHO means scumware, I've got Surf+, WhenU, TopText installed and clicked your links and they both show AMAZONIDHERE at destination.

    Bernie
    (have those all to see what they're doing to my pages, not because I like them)



    Bernie,

    BHO means Browser Helper Object. I'm referring to scumware that operates via a BHO.

    I would have expected one of the links on my test page to be re-directed when you clicked-through. You said that both were not. That's not good news.

    Yours truly,
    Cusimano.Com Corporation
    per: David Cusimano

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador cusimano's Avatar
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    quote:
    Originally posted by CelticOneDesign:

    The newer scum would be immune to such techniques as well.


    We're obviously playing a cat-and-mouse game with scumware and no one solution is going to solve this. But maybe we could at least stop some of the older scumware using this re-direct and if so it might still be one of the solutions we could use.

    Yours truly,
    Cusimano.Com Corporation
    per: David Cusimano

  10. #10
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    David,

    We would be playing Cat and mouse with them, that is why I have decided to lobby the adnetworks and merchants ... if they have no affiliations they can not steal our traffic, and will need to change their business model.

    Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli


  11. #11
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    One way to lobby the networks and merchants is to post a public service announcement on all our websites which alerts the public to this scurge. Link to it from every page. In the announcement, mention your position (like banning offending merchants). Here is an example:

    *******************************************

    Are you infected with ParasiteWare™?

    ParasiteWare™ is software that you download, knowingly or not as it may come bundled with other applications or as deceptive downloads and consists of 'adware' which is unwanted advertising via pop-up, slider, pop-under or add links to sites for which the original owner does not get paid for and hijacks the affiliate link on their sites ... their sole purpose is to worm their way onto your computer and assault you with advertising all day!

    http://www.google.com/help/nopopupads.html - Google's position.
    http://news.com.com/2100-1023-257592.html - "Spyware" piggybacks on Napster rivals - Is that music really free?
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology...,49960,00.html - Spyware, In a Galaxy Near You.
    http://www.ecommercebase.com/article/888 - Adware and Under-Wear - The Definitive Guide.
    http://www.parasiteware.com/ - Extensive list of offenders. If you ever downloaded any of these software products, you are probably infected. This list may shock you.

    (your site name) neither uses nor endorses such practices. To our knowledge, none of our affiliate merchants use or endorse these practices. If we determine a merchant is knowingly endorsing the practice, we will immediately ban that merchant from this website.

    However, it is important for the individual to understand that it is her/his computer that is infected, and he/she should remove the offending software. In addition to being an annoyance, ParasiteWare™ can be dangerous. Your computer contains personal information that you should protect. If you are experiencing pop-ups generated by one of these malicious programs, you may want to remove the pop-up program from your computer. One program that attempts to detect and to uninstall pop-up programs, Ad-aware, is available at Cnet. We have no relationship with the individuals who created this software, but this editor does use the no-charge version.

    This type of deception is growing exponentially, and it must be stopped. Please take action, and clean your computer today.

    Attention webmasters. Please post a warning about this issue on all your websites. If you wish, you may copy and paste the above information.

    *****************************************

    I'm certain many merchants check various affiliate websites. If enough webmasters do this, and we follow up by dropping the offenders, the message will be heard.

    Ain't capitalism great?

  12. #12
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Thanks -Westmont- for the links and informative statement which I placed on some pages at nmy Cybermalls. Get the word out folks.

    WebMaster Mike

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador webmarm's Avatar
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    Did you write this Westmont? May I use it in a webmaster newsletter, if so?

    TIA.

    - - - - -
    42. Yup, the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

  14. #14
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    If the following posts are of any use, please feel free to take some or all of them and use it on your sites/in your newsletters. (Both will need to be modified a little as they are REPLIES to topics that others started... I'm leaving them as-is below)

    --------

    1. Published today in the I-Sales newsletter:-

    TOPIC: DIVERTING SALES

    If you want to see just how much fuss the parasiteware issue is throwing up, you should head over to ABestWeb.com's forums (direct link: http://abw.infopop.cc/6/ubb.x ) I am not affiliated with ABW, but I post there very regularly.

    There have been many hundreds of posts on ABW about the issue of all these programs that hijack visitors, either on an affiliate site or once they have reached a merchant site via an affiliate link, to the benefit of the parasiteware software's author.

    While the situation is still fluid and a consensus has yet to emerge, I believe the bulk of the posts can be summed up as follows:-

    A) Affiliates are against parasiteware

    B) Merchants are either publicly against parasiteware, quietly pro-parasiteware because it drives more sales or (and this seems to be the majority situation) completely unaware of the whole parasiteware situation and its implications

    C) The major affiliate network providers (Commission Junction, Be Free, Linkshare and Performics) are all tacitly in favour of
    parasiteware and the current status quo, since it enables them to claim commissions on otherwise "uncommissionable" sales (see below
    for more on this). ShareaSale.com is the only network provider to publicly take a stand against parasiteware

    Here's what most reports on parasiteware have glossed over or failed to explain clearly: parasiteware steals from AFFILIATES, but it
    *also* steals from MERCHANTS!

    An example scenario illustrates the latter issue very well.

    EXAMPLE
    A visitor has bought books several times from ACMEbooks.com. They are familiar with the site, to the extent that when they want to buy
    books they just type ACMEbooks.com into the Location bar of their browser. Ordinarily, this would (quite correctly) be "free" traffic
    for the merchant, who is reaping the benefit of ad dollars expended on branding and good customer service.

    However, in this case, the visitor has hidden parasiteware installed on their PC that pops up a small window with a discount coupon in it
    when they arrive at ACMEBooks.com. The visitor, following normal human behaviour, clicks on the coupon -- which redirects them back to ACMEBooks.com via a link encoded with the affiliate code of the parasiteware company. Suddenly, ACMEBooks.com will find itself
    having to pay a commission on a normally "uncommissionable" sale!

    The above scenario would also be true for visitors generated by the merchant through any other direct (i.e. non-affiliate) link such as
    via banner ads, PPC ads, offline advertising and so on. ALL traffic to a merchant's site is potentially compromised by parasites.

    WINNERS
    * Parasiteware company: they get to piggyback on top of ALL traffic that arrives at a merchant site, whether it originates from an
    affiliate (who will lose their commission) or directly from a merchant's promotional efforts (the merchant then finds itself obliged to pay a commission on an uncommissionable sale)

    * Affiliate network provider: they get a juicy 30% transaction commission on all these additional commissions that the parasiteware
    is creating out of thin air by hijacking direct traffic to merchants!

    LOSERS
    * Merchants: they end up having to pay out more (and sometimes MUCH more) commissions and they get an over-inflated impression of the
    strength and importance of their affiliate program to their overall revenue generation efforts. Remember, most merchants have yet to
    hear of parasiteware!

    * Affiliates: each hijacked visitor means less chance of a sale, and less chance at making a commission

    While there is no universal panacea to this problem, one thing that I believe will definitely help is greater AWARENESS of the problem,
    especially on the part of merchants, many of whom are unwittingly contributing to the problem by paying commissions to parasiteware companies for sales they should never have been making.

    So, with every chance you get to communicate with the affiliate merchants you use most frequently, please take a few minutes to bring them up to speed on this problem and why -- crazy though it
    may seem at first -- the affiliate networks they have entrusted the running of their affiliate programs to ARE NOT ON THEIR SIDE!

    Fight the good fight!

    --------

    1. Hopefully to appear in the bCentral newsletter in the next day or so:-

    Subject: StealWare

    While Ian Hewitt's intentions are good, what he may not realise is that the affiliate networks are VERY aware of the "StealWare" issue and are fighting a strong battle to preserve the status quo. There have been many hundreds of posts on the matter to the ABW forums at http://abw.infopop.cc/6/ubb.x (I'm not affiliated with the site - I just post there a lot!)

    Fundamentally, the affiliate networks are a big WINNER in the StealWare scenario, since they make commissions on formerly "uncommissionable" sales, as well of course as continuing to make commissions on regular affiliate sales since the StealWare companies are also affiliates, and therefore CJ, BeFree, Linkshare and Performics make their commission on the latter sales regardless of whether they are credited to the "correct" party or to a StealWare
    company.

    The real dirtiness of the game being played out comes when you look at the behaviour of many of these StealWare programs a little more closely (note that StealWare is definitely not limited to file sharing software - although it is often bundled *with* this type of software - for example, Gator is StealWare).

    Many StealWare packages don't just overwrite or otherwise hijack *affiliate* links - they also intercept traffic flowing directly to a merchant. For example, if a person types www.merchanta.com into the location field of the web browser, or searches for "used books" and clicks on Merchant A's link, or indeed browses on Yahoo! and sees a
    banner ad run by Merchant A and clicks on it.

    Under normal circumstances all this direct traffic is, naturally enough, uncommissionable. In other words, it comes about as the direct result of the promotional and branding efforts (and marketing $) expended by Merchant A.

    So where does StealWare enter the picture? On the merchant site itself! Some StealWare packages pop up coupons or other distractions once a visitor arrives at a merchant site that the StealWare company is affiliated with, even if the visitor came there *directly* as outlined above.

    What happens is that the visitor then is induced to click on the "distraction" and is sent back to the merchant, either directly or via an intermediary page. Suddenly, that merchant finds itself having to pay a commission to the StealWare company on traffic that THE MERCHANT brought to its own site!

    And guess who gets 20-30% of ALL commissions, regardless of their origin? The AFFILIATE NETWORKS, of course!

    The key to cracking this problem is not to expect the ANs to fight on behalf of the merchants and affiliates - their recent actions have shown that they're working on behalf of the greater Profit god.

    Instead, you need to work to *inform and educate* the merchants you work with most regularly, since the vast majority have never heard of StealWare (also called Parasiteware or Scumware btw) or have any inkling that they are essentially having money stolen from their own pockets.

    Indeed, until they are enlightened to this shocking state of affairs, many merchants no doubt prize these StealWare companies amongst their most important and productive affiliates (since the volume of transactions and commissions they will be driving will, in general, be high) - not realising that their revenue is derived from a combination of commissions poached from hard-working affiliates and from traffic stolen "at source" i.e. directly at the merchant site
    itself.

    Shocking isn't it?

    --
    Genki Productions http://www.genkiproductions.com/
    Free Email - Affiliate Programs - Web Promotion Tips - Jobs in Japan

  15. #15
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    quote:
    Originally posted by webmistress:
    Did you write this Westmont? May I use it in a webmaster newsletter, if so?

    TIA.

    - - - - -
    42. Yup, the answer to life, the universe, and everything.


    It is a compilation with modifications from a few pages. For example, the 1st paragraph comes from http://www.parasiteware.com/ (thanks Haiko), and a large part of the 4th paragragh is from Google.

    By all means copy all or part of whatever you want. The intent is to make the individual web user aware of what is going on and to embed a message to all merchants who condone stealware.

    My thought is this: The best, and most difficult, way to combat the scums is to get the consumer to act. The consumer could (and should) care less about who gets paid commissions. But if they can be made aware of the personal risks they are facing, enough of them might act (in their own best interest) by cleaning their computers. Also, the message might register with merchants if they see it often enough.

    Get the message out.
    1. Clean up computers.
    2. Send message to merchants
    3. Drop offending merchants
    4. 1+2+3 = message to affiliate networks

    gotta hit 'em in the wallet. That's what they are doing to us.

    [This message was edited by Westmont on October 04, 2002 at 09:27 AM.]

  16. #16
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    Hurrah! My bCentral post was sent to their 70,000+ webmaster readership today. Slowly, the word is getting out...

    --
    Genki Productions http://www.genkiproductions.com/
    Free Email - Affiliate Programs - Web Promotion Tips - Jobs in Japan

  17. #17
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    I thought that post came from you Edwin. Good going.

    Tick

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