Partner Perspectives  Connecting marketers to our tech communities.
SPONSORED BY
3/6/2017
11:30 AM
Pieter Arntz
Pieter Arntz
Partner Perspectives
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

Adware vs. Ad Fraud: Viva la Difference!

Both earn their money in the advertising trade but they each have very different means of operation and targets.

Adware and ad fraud are in basically the same business, and neither care very much how they make money as long as it keeps pouring in. But there are some major differences. To understand these differences let’s take a look at the separate entities.

Adware
Adware is any software application that shows advertisements while one of the components of the adware is running. The word is a contraction of advertising and software, and often just regarded as “advertising-supported freeware.”

With adware, consumers accept the well-known trade off of not having to pay for software in exchange for having to look at some advertisements in return. While this simple business model may appeal to many of us, there are definitely boundaries. We draw lines at the amount of advertisements, the moment and the way they are presented to us (consider for example,  in-game advertising), and the kind of advertisements. Pop-ups of an adult nature, for one,  may give those looking over your shoulder the wrong idea.

There are also some criteria that security vendors take into consideration when classifying adware:

  • Do the advertisements disappear when you uninstall the software they came with?
  • Was the user given a warning and a chance to opt out during install?
  • What is the nature of the changes the adware makes on the affected system?
  • How easy is it to remove under normal circumstances?
  • What is the impact on users privacy?
  • Does the adware grab permissions to update itself or install other similar programs?

This is why you will see (most) adware classified as potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), some as spyware, and others could even be classified as Trojans.

Ad fraud
Ad fraud is a type of fraud that lets advertisers pay for advertisements even though the number of impressions (the times that the advertisement has been seen) is enormously exaggerated. There are many different methods to achieve this:

  • SEO fraud, where sites are artificially made to appear very popular so advertisers will pay high prices for advertisements nobody may ever see.
  • Stacking or stuffing sites are filled with lots of advertisements. Sometimes they are on top of each other, or sometimes only one pixel big. When someone visits the site, all the advertisements register one impression.
  • Domain spoofing is when the site where the advertisement is placed is different than the one the advertiser expected. He pays a high price for a site with low or no traffic.
  • Click-fraud involves systems that are part of a botnet or have some other Trojan infection. Visitors are sent to a site or click on a URL. But despite the amount of impressions, the return value of the click is very low. The chance that the potential customer is mad at you, is bigger than the chance he’ll buy something.

The malware involved in this type of fraud is usually classified as a Trojan as the systems are remotely controlled and told to visit a site (to heighten the popularity) or click a URL (to register an impression). As you can imagine, hiring a botnet to do these tasks for you is a lot cheaper than owning and running large server-farms, although this happens as well. Ad fraudsters also sometimes pay people in low-income countries to do micro tasks for micro payment.

Both adware and ad fraud earn their money in the advertising business. But the means are different. While the main victims of adware are the users who may have knowingly installed advertising supported software, in the case of ad fraud the main victims are the advertisers,  even though unsuspecting users may be running click-bots or multi-purpose bots.

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books. View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Election Websites, Back-End Systems Most at Risk of Cyberattack in Midterms
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/14/2018
Australian Teen Hacked Apple Network
Dark Reading Staff 8/17/2018
Data Privacy Careers Are Helping to Close the IT Gender Gap
Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy, and Information Security Officer, AvePoint, Inc.,  8/20/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
Malwarebytes protects businesses against malicious threats that escape detection by traditional antivirus solutions. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, the companys flagship product, has a highly advanced heuristic detection engine that has removed more than five billion malicious threats from computers worldwide. SMBs and enterprise businesses worldwide trust Malwarebytes to protect their data. Founded in 2008, the company is headquartered in California with offices in Europe, and a global team of researchers and experts. For more information, please visit us at www.malwarebytes.com/business.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-15607
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
In ImageMagick 7.0.8-11 Q16, a tiny input file 0x50 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x4c 0x36 0x38 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x36 0x1f 0x35 0x50 0x00 can result in a hang of several minutes during which CPU and memory resources are consumed until ultimately an attempted large memory allocation fails. Remote atta...
CVE-2018-14795
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
DeltaV Versions 11.3.1, 12.3.1, 13.3.0, 13.3.1, and R5 is vulnerable due to improper path validation which may allow an attacker to replace executable files.
CVE-2018-6692
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
Stack-based Buffer Overflow vulnerability in libUPnPHndlr.so in Belkin Wemo Insight Smart Plug allows remote attackers to bypass local security protection via a crafted HTTP post packet.
CVE-2018-14793
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
DeltaV Versions 11.3.1, 12.3.1, 13.3.0, 13.3.1, and R5 is vulnerable to a buffer overflow exploit through an open communication port to allow arbitrary code execution.
CVE-2017-17305
PUBLISHED: 2018-08-21
Some Huawei Firewall products USG2205BSR V300R001C10SPC600; USG2220BSR V300R001C00; USG5120BSR V300R001C00; USG5150BSR V300R001C00 have a Bleichenbacher Oracle vulnerability in the IPSEC IKEv1 implementations. Remote attackers can decrypt IPSEC tunnel ciphertext data by leveraging a Bleichenbacher R...