Marketing September 30, 2015 Last updated September 19th, 2018 1,612 Reads share

Ad Injection Economy: Building Your Own Empire

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Every webmaster today needs to know what an ad injection is. It works like this – you have a website that you believe works properly. The next time you log in to your website from a friend’s computer, you can see that there are ads. If you have not included Google Adsense and find ads on parts of web pages, means you are facing the problem of ad injections. Ad injections are unwanted programs that inject new ads on the web page and may irritate you sometimes during browsing the website.

The Yontoo browser plug-in, for instance, has modified around 4.5 million Facebook users’ pages and injected ads to earn an astonishing $8 million.

Sometimes, the ads, even replace the existing ones. The ads can be anywhere, from upward to the bottom to any part of the page that it finds suitable. If ISP providers are helping in Ad injection and you had signed up for that, you’re given providers the ability to do so.

The Ad Injection Problem

Google understands the problem too, and the company has already received more than 100,000 complaints related to ad injections since the beginning of this year. While security threats are imminent because of ad injections, they significantly can hide the user experience and engagement rate. The security threats include the fact that the ad injectors can get access to your personal data, like your preferences by establishing a secure connection to your Gmail account. This can also mean that hackers can have access to personal information, a reason Google strongly advises for using Safe Browsing.

In a recent Google study that the company carried out by the University of California, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara, the effects of ad injections have been studied in detail for the first time.

The Problem

The basic problem with the ad injectors businesses is that there are different players in the ad injection economy. For instance, your ISP provider is one and they can make changes if you’ve signed in to their conditions. The software you installed can also contribute to ad injections. The third is a browser extension that users generally installed on your browser.

The woes of Ad injection are still unanswered. From the user point of view, the debate is whether these ad insertions, that can change your website without your permission, are legal or not, is still unanswered. While as a webmaster could argue that there is a direct relationship between you and your user and changes are a violation of that law, the ad injector business can argue in turn that the user has agreed to their conditions. The issue is still unresolved.

Here is a screenshot from Google about the changes that can affect you. Check the right image and see how many ads have been inserted – the whole layout of the page is changed.
Ad Injection

Tracking Ad Injections

Google built a tool that could identify ad injectors. The detector helped Google understand how ad injectors worked and the results stated that more than 5.5% of users experienced ad injection in one form or the other. Google discovered that more than 34,000 software applications have injected ads into the users’ browsers. Out of them, around 30% were malicious and either stole personal account details or monitored the users’ activity, enabling third party tracking.

How Does Your Computer Become Effected with the Ad Injection Disease?

As stated before, Ad injection can happen via many sources. Some other common sources of ad injectors are as follows:

  • Downloading a malware
  • Clicking on social advertising campaigns
  • Downloading software applications that come as a ‘bundle’ – or where you download free software
  • Modifying the binaries, say when someone modified the Windows registry.

Understanding the Ad Injection Economy

The advertisers can be anyone from Walmart to eBay. As these companies only pay for the final click, they are not aware of actually how they ‘receive’ those clicks. It may happen that they receive traffic from malicious software and malware, which at the end turns into profit for ad injector business.

Fighting the Ad Injector Businesses

For this reason, it’s important to keep your computer clean of ad injectors. Google does its part by removing all suspicious Chrome extensions that indulge in the activity. Google removed more than 192 deceptive Chrome extensions, which had the potential to affect as many as 14 million users. Google itself admitted that 50,870 chrome extensions indulged in some sort of ad injection activity and of these, 38% were absolute malware.

Google’s simultaneously working on its Safe Browsing technology as well that can alert users about malware and ad-injections. Currently, Safe Browsing offers more than 5 million warnings to its users every day and discovers more than 90,000 phishing sites each month. Google also alerts, advertisers about the misleading practices with keeping in mind Google Platform program policy and Double click Ad Exchange program.

You can do a bit too to protect yourself. Here are some of the ways that can help you mitigate the threat.

  • Do not download software from untrusted sources.
  • Enable the Safe Browsing feature.
  • Understand that your Mac can be affected too. Compared to 5.11% of pages infected with ad injectors, Mac had around 3.43%.
  • Do not modify any binaries
  • Use proper judgment when downloading a software
  • Do not click on any suspected links

Sometimes, clicking on malicious advertisements can also initiate unwanted software installs. The fraud and misuse of the ad business have led us to a scenario where strict rules are a must. The urge to stop this menace needs to come from all fronts. Some eCommerce sites share relations with these ad injector businesses, even today – a trend that needs to stop immediately. Likewise, website owners and browser developers need to share an important role too.

Images: “Online internet banner with text “YOUR AD HERE” on a web page. Web page with all pictures and informations are created by contributor himself./  Shutterstock.com

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Dhaval Jogi

Dhaval Jogi

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