How a gang of crooks hijacked your web browser

How a gang of crooks hijacked your web browser

If you’ve had a “forced-redirect” ad hijack your web browsing today and wanted to curse out some of the cretins responsible by name, you can now do so. And the name is as tacky as you might expect: Zirconium.

The identification comes in a report by the ad-security firm Confiant that unpacks how this group of con artists staged a massive ad-fraud campaign last year that included creating 28 phony ad agencies.

It’s yet another haul of evidence pointing out deep-seated rot in the “programmatic” part of the online ad business, in which ad networks match open space on sites with potential advertisers through automated auctions.

A multi-level malware machine

The operation Confiant describes was larger than most: The New York company estimates that Zirconium’s “malvertising” got seen about a billion times last year, and in seven days of December showed up on 62% of a panel of 600 sites that it monitored.

But the con was also more complex, in that Zirconium built fake firms to sell fake ads. This operation, itself hidden behind a Scottish shell company, created an ad network named MyAdsBro (yes, somebody thought this was a good name for a firm meant to sound legitimate) and then spawned 28 bogus ad agencies.

These companies’ websites look extremely similar, complete with buzzword-laden sales pitches and links to Twitter accounts spouting such marketing mumbo-jumbo as “Try to get the eventual user in online marketing” or “The main thing in online marketing is to have a progress report.”

Most point to a LinkedIn profile with a strikingly polished portrait picture that a Google (GOOG, GOOGL) reverse-image search reveals to be a stock photo.

A few of these online storefronts look sloppier than others. For instance, one fake firm that claims to run 4,600-plus ad campaigns lists a British street address that Google Maps shows as a rundown block of townhomes.

View photos

f;stroke:#fff;stroke-width:0;vertical-align:bottom;” height=”15″ viewBox=”0 0 48 48″ data-icon=”gallery” data-reactid=”53″><path d=”M46.135 6.15h-34.92c-1.0

Latest Posts From This Category

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply