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  1. #1
    Newbie
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    I'm trying to figure out how some of the parasiteware programs work and how to prevent them from modifying the links on my site (for those that do) & stealing commissions.

    Do the programs modify the actual html of the webpage? Basically parsing the html & replacing affiliate links with their affiliate ids?

    or

    Do the parasiteware programs modify the affiliate links AFTER they are clicked on by the user?

    Thanks in advance for any info.

    - John

    ...

  2. #2
    Just Lurking
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    I doubt that there's any thing you can do to stop them. Because the user downloaded the software the parasite has full access. If I understand how they work they're acting as a proxy so there's no way I can think of to conceal your affiliate link.

    Your best bet, from what I've been reading, is to avoid merchants and affiliate programs that pay such to steal commissions.

    I'm using redirects with my links but this is just to monitor exits from my site. Maybe such exit information will allow me to spot parasite associated affiliate programs.

  3. #3
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    quote:
    Because the user downloaded the software the parasite has full access. If I understand how they work they're acting as a proxy so there's no way I can think of to conceal your affiliate link.

    Your best bet, from what I've been reading, is to avoid merchants and affiliate programs that pay such to steal commissions.

    I'm using redirects with my links but this is just to monitor exits from my site. Maybe such exit information will allow me to spot parasite associated affiliate programs.


    Please could someone explain this in words of one syllable as I don't understand fully how this works. o:

    "It doesn't do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him!"

  4. #4
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    There are many different parasites and they can and do work differently.

    There are three main groups that I'll try to explain.

    1) There are some parasites that do alter the content that was retrieved from your website. Toptext was an example of this type of parasite. I haven't heard anything regarding toptext "in a long time" or others using this method but I'm sure some still exist. There is a post from ecomcity concerning toptext that tells you how to block them from altering your text. Perhaps someone will volunteer the latest update on them and others like them.

    2) Most of today’s parasites are applications that reside on a users PC and I'll just call them traditional BHO's. These have been downloaded either deliberately or in many cases unknowingly installed with shareware software or even by driveby downloads without a users permission.

    The parasite applications basically run all the time on the users computer as a background application. These applications can gain access to a users browser via a programming component called a "browser helper object" or BHO as it is commonly referred to. Here is a link with some good info regarding bho's: http://www.geocities.com/white+paper/

    Look at the section Controlling Internet Explorer 4.0 with Browser Helper Objects and you'll see that the intention of Microsoft in providing bho capability was clearly aimed "to help protect corporate security" but it seems to me it's clearly turned out being predominantly used to invade consumer privacy.

    Anyway these applications, are able to see every request that is being processed by the Microfoft browser and have the ability to stop or alter the actions as well.

    A typical BHO watches the resulting url that is presented in the browser and the url is extracted and compared to a list of url's that are affiliate merchants. IE: If you go to a pp merchants website, the BHO will see it the url and that is usually when they take action. The action is to send another request through the browser via the bho to simulate a user clicking on the parasites link to that merchant. So the process of diversion looks like this:
    1) User clicks on affiliate link or goes directly to the merchants website (via bookmark email, search engine, or "any way possible".
    2) If an affiliate link was clicked the request is routed to the network where they set a tracking cookie (the merchant may also set their own tracking cookie). The affiliate cookie for tracking is set and then the networks redirect the user to the merchants site.
    3) The bho "residing on the consumers PC" sees a new url address and determines the user is at lets say - "merchant a" web site. They look via their application or transmit another request to one of their server applications to determine if they have an affiliate relationship with the company and if they do, they will do one of several things:
    a) Sometimes they just re-issue another simulated click to the network for that merchant with their affiliate link. This causes the tracking cookie to be reset for the parasite and not the referring affiliate so any purchase and the parasite is rewarded. Note, if an affiliate link was not clicked (their was never a tracking cookie set by the networks) the bho by it's action still causes a cookie to be set and this is how they turn normal non commissionable orders into orders they get credit for. Of course the networks receive a percentage of sales on every order and is why they love BHO's and heavily promote them to merchants. The networks get a significant amount of commissions on orders that would otherwise "not be a part of the affiliate channel" by partnering with BHO's.

    b) Sometime they will issue a popup saying something like "click here to earn your discounts". When the user hits OK, an additional request is sent to the network simulating a clicked link for the parasite that goes to the network which resets the cookie for the parasite and again redirects back to the merchants site (even though the user is already at the merchants site). Now think about all this happening in a couple of seconds are less and realizing the additional processing going on the consumers PC as well as additional internet traffic being generated. These application pretty much run constantly and any application developed under microsoft is subject to resource leaks that drain system resources and degrade overall performance and the reliability of normal operations of a PC over time (ok thats another topic).

    Most of the parasites you'll see in the parasiteware forum operate in the above fashion. On a side note of concern, realize that if the parasite could interpret affiliates links and determine that a specific link went to a specific merchant, the parasite could completely abandon the referring affiliates link and just substitute their own. It should be noted that practically every instance of current diversions results in two rapidly sequenced processing of network links: first the affiliate link and then followed by the parasite link. All of these requests, drag down click to sale ratios for merchants and seeing as every diversion issued by a parasite is a text based link, that this also effects the real facts regarding the effectiveness of banner links vs text based links. Most people will tell you that text based links rule...... Is there a reason for this?

    While the current traditional bho technology predominately watches urls - consider BOTs that are now scanning our sites daily and realize that parasites are becoming more efficient. The line could become more fuzzy in the future regarding "overwriting of a link" and "overwriting could become a thing of the past" via complete abandonment of the refering affiliates link processing all together.

    3)There are contextual based parasites as well. WhenU and Gator are examples of being contextual based in that they appear to pay less attention to merchant urls visited in the browser but rather interpret the text of a specific web page to try and determine what the user is looking at and then based on that will show some form of advertising for a client (possibly an ad from the merchant they user is already visiting but many times from a competitor). So, if you go to a page with lots of "toy based keywords" they will recognize it via their interpreting of the text on the web page and show an ad for a toy company that pays them to popup the advertisement. I really don't know if these parasites have affiliate relationships as well and possibly re-issue requests via the affiliate channel or not. If they do, they can be doubly rewarded. IE: Not only did some merchant pay them to popup on a competitor, they may pay them via an affiliate relationship if a sale is made as well. Perhaps someone else will clarify this aspect of the contextual based parasites. I guess it could go either way.

    Note also that for a while traditional BHO's and the contextual based BHO's used to operate in separate segments. This line appears to be disappearing as I've seen posts recently that suggested traditional BHO's represented in the parasiteware forum were diverting based on contextual information.... The plot thickens.

    There are a couple of other thing to consider is that if a consumer is not infected with a parasite then your tracking should not be effected. I saw recently somewhere that ebates has over 6 million installs (not claiming this is accurate) and if you look at some of the popular download sites and check stats on bho downloads you’ll be amazed at the number of users that fall into their grasp one way or the other.

    You might also want to do a search for “ie6 compliant” or “framing a link” as framing links has been noted as being effective in regards to preventing traditionasl based bho’s from seeing the real link of destination and hence prevents them from re-issueing requests that overwrites your cookie. If you do this, only do it with merchants that are IE 6 complient otherwise you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Many merchants ARE NOT IE6 complient and framing of their links will result in no cookie being set at all (for that merchant) for a very larger percentage of your surfers!

    Hope this helps some. It should be noted that the parasite field and who is or isn't diverting and the methods used is constantly changing and the references to parasites above was done from a historical based perspective and is not suggesting or claiming any accuracy to "the current state of any particular company who has been considered a parasite at some point".

    ===============================
    PeePee merchants with PooPoo policies allow our earnings to be flushed down the crapper.

    Why give parasites unlimited cookie durations and credit for sales where they divert our users and overwrite our cookies. PP merchants directly support what many consider unfair trade practices and thievery!
    ===============================

    [This message was edited by happypoon on September 25, 2003 at 04:40 AM.]

  5. #5
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    Thank you so much for taking the time to write that all out and for a clear explanation.

    "It doesn't do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him!"

  6. #6
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    Hmmm so in the instance that the cookie is reset from the same IP in a short time frame the merchant could easily do something about it?

    This is flawed if the parasite sets a first time cookie on the machine?

    What about a lifetime cookie presumably a good guy would not allow the cookie to be reset?

    "It doesn't do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him!"

  7. #7
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Very well done informational on BHO's Happypoon and deserving of some visuals and frontpage article link at www.parasiteware.com ( Hint Haiko; the best BHO warnings by ABWers should be on that site)

    "The line could become more fuzzy in the future regarding "overwriting of a link" and "overwriting could become a thing of the past" via complete abandonment of the refering affiliates link processing all together."

    The Professional thieves running BHO's have no limitations and laugh at the networks "Thou Shall not Steal" signs. The work in a stealth mode and all BHO's hate ABW for detecting their cookie manipulation techniques. A dumb lazy AM is their best buddy and Wayne can provide, for a fee, the dumbest unethical AM's on the planet.

    Next step is for the major BHO thieves to plant a fresh set of their 500+ merchant cookies upon system boot up through their trojan horse backdoor overwriting all existing cookies. I have not been able to find with Ad-aware or Spybot S&D the source of timed cookie setting Ad popups that appear on my system over the last 2 weeks. Some hidden Xupiter, or other scumware program, infected me by a stealth drive-by install which is becoming more previlent. BHO affiliates seeking commissions would love to do away with the bother of hyping rewards/rebates or other loyality shopping incent paperwork and just secretly plant cookies
    by undetectable means.

    Mike & Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

  8. #8
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    quote:
    What about a lifetime cookie presumably a good guy would not allow the cookie to be reset?


    Lifetime cookies are smoke and mirrors. Not a single merchant that I'm aware uses technology to "not overwrite existing cookies" until they are expired. Look at your merchant agreements - every single one of them has some kind of clause that always rewards the last person that set the cookie. Lifetime cookies are re-written just as any other cookie is!

    You also have to deal with issues such as cookiewashers which people are using and frequently delete cookies on a daily basis.

    I said before that the networks can probably tell when diversions occur (the same cookie for a merchant is reset within a very short time for the same machine id) but again you have to realize the networks favor doing business with BHO's for financial reasons and in my opinion this has contributed to to their lack of being compliant themselves. Just as a lifetime cookie is smoke and mirrors, so is the coc rule that stated parasites had 60 days to come into compliance.

    Consider this speculation: it has been suggested by many that parasites have the ability to negotiate higher commission rates due to their large amount of sales. While I don't have specific proof of this, I feel that any "reasonable person" would assume that this is true in many cases. Further, many merchants inheriently offer tiered commission structures which the parasites are naturally going to reach a higher level of sales and hence a higher commission rate.

    I know that the many networks not only have a monthly fee but recieve a commission on top of either sales made or commissions paid. I assume that are rewarded based on commissions paid rather than a percentage of outright sales because of the lack of action to detect and deter commissions being overwritten by parasitic affiliates on non parasitic affiliates. Whats the basis of this information? Only to speculate that the lack of network action is due to them wanting the higher commissioned affiliate to get credit for sales so they get their percentages on those higher commissions. This may not be the case and it could be that the cost for networks to upgrade their systems to detect and prevent overwrting of cookies "within a certain intervals of time" is more than they are willing to pay to shut all of us affiliates up who raise hell that they continue to "not comment on these issues", seem to ignore the 60 compliance rule they established in the coc and openly allow known parasites diverting monies via techniques similar to identity theft and wire fraud to do business in a finacial based environment and consider it "business as usual".

    ===============================
    PeePee merchants with PooPoo policies allow our earnings to be flushed down the crapper.

    Why give parasites unlimited cookie durations and credit for sales where they divert our users and overwrite our cookies. PP merchants directly support what many consider unfair trade practices and thievery!
    ===============================

  9. #9
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Poon is righteously getting pissed. I love having him in my camp of ABWers willing to take their time to curb network abuses by shining a bright spot light on tabu subjects. Some call it conspiracy theories. Some call it jealousy and sour grapes. Some hope we'd just go away in order to get back to their latest "tricks for clicks". Some hide behind confidentiality screens or 5 page phoney privacy statements. Some are adept at smoke screening the truth and playing both sides for profits, while acting in a supportive role.

    Nice thing about ABW is the real pro-affiliate champions just keep rising to the top getting heard above the noise of the spin masters.

    Mike & Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

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