UK Police Target Advertising On Infringing Sites, Opens Door For Scammers And Malware Purveyors

from the replacing-bad-ads-with-foul-software dept

No good deed by government agencies goes unpunished it seems, although it appears the average citizen bears the brunt of these punishments nearly every time. The UK’s long-running battle with porn and infringement recently combined to the detriment of computer users across the country.

City of London Police are claiming credit for the suspension of 40 ad-funded websites that provided unauthorised access to copyright-protected content – but may have caused a rise in the number of web ads carrying malware or promoting pornography.

Operation Creative has resulted in the suspension of 40 national and international websites by domain name registrars during a three month pilot. The campaign was led by the new Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in collaboration with the creative industry, as represented by FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), the BPI (British Phonographic Industry), IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and The Publishers Association.

That’s the upside. Dozens of infringing sites suspended and pleased industry execs smiling warmly at the results of their latest attempt to drain the web of infringement using a handful of thimbles.

The suspensions and extra public attention resulted in a 12% drop in advertising from major brands. But, when you create a hole on the internet, something will rush in and fill it.

[A]dverts that led users to sites with explicit adult content or exposed them to malware increased by 39 per cent during the same period…

Almost half (46 per cent) of total ads served to the sites were for unknown or unidentified brands which invited users to click through, often to fraudulent scams.

While infringement may have been dented, the rise in fraudulent activity more than made up for it. And what didn’t lead to infected computers led to sites the government is actively discouraging people from visiting with its mandatory porn filtering.

This, of course, was pitched by the masters of the inadvertent disasters as a good thing:

Police put a positive spin on this development, arguing that switching to shadier sources of advertising is unsustainable and that “site owners may struggle to maintain their revenue streams when adverts from established brands are removed”.

In all reality, relying solely on low quality web ads isn’t really a “business model.” What the City of London police have done is slow a trickle of income to a halt and allowed those with shadier (but more lucrative) “business models” to fill the void with malware infections and scams.

BPI’s statement on the takedowns seems to imply that this activity has made the web safer, despite evidence gathered to the contrary.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said: “The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites. These sites expose consumers to scams and malware, deny creators their living, and harm brands by associating them with illegal and unsafe content.”

Right. Except that disrupting the sites has led to even more malware and scammy behavior. This may be a small win for BPI and its cohorts, but the consumers aren’t being protected in any way. But I suppose that’s a small price (for someone else) to pay when fighting infringement. If someone looking for illicit content ends up with an infected computer, it’s no one’s fault but their own, right?

I’m not suggesting the rights holders are actively working to make the web less safe, but that seems to be the end result, intended or not. Maybe the City of London police will throw a little of its investigative muscle into shutting those operators down, rather than just running interference for the copyright industry. Or maybe it will just continue to “enforce” the law by skirting ICANN policies as it has in the past with its highly-questionable domain takedowns that were backed with threats to hold registrars responsible for the alleged infringement happening on the disabled sites.

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Companies: bpi

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Comments on “UK Police Target Advertising On Infringing Sites, Opens Door For Scammers And Malware Purveyors”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, Wikipedia runs one of the highest-traffic websites of the whole web without any advertisements. This proves that a donation-only model is sustainable.

What they will do? What they did with Wikileaks – put pressure on the payment providers. Bitcoin does make that harder.

I believe alternative means of funding are going to appear. Perhaps something like flattr, but distributed like bitcoin.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

out_of_the_blue says:

So, among other advantages, infringement stops malware? WHO KNEW!

Holy cow, you pirates are actually doing us all great benefits! PIRATE AWAY, ME HEARTIES!

“I’m being sarcastic in case you couldn’t tell.” Homer Simpson.

Where “I’m a pirate! You can’t stop me!” is one of the more thoughtful fanboy positions.


A Nonny Mouse says:

Re: The UK needs to rein in the City of London cops

This seems like a serious, paid-for by corporations, jurisdictional mess

That’s because the City of London is a serious, voted-for by corporations, jurisdictional mess:


or the youtube videos by CGP Grey:

Andyv (profile) says:

Re: The UK needs to rein in the City of London cops

To be fair, the City of London Police are the premier financial crime fighting organisation in the UK and one of the best in the world.

A mate of mine is a copper there, and he works solidly on taking down boiler rooms all around the world. Which is good work in anyone’s language.

Although as a longtime Techdirt reader, I know it goes against the grain to say this.

However, as with everything this lovely Coalition of the Damned are bringing us, the censorship of the internet will only be the thin end of the wedge.

Anonymous Coward says:

when you have certain industries who have no idea what to do, or know what to do but completely ignore it, then you get crap as a result. i still cant figure out where the money came from to start up this new ‘crime fighting unit’, considering the financial shit street the UK is supposed to be in. i would have thought it a better option to encourage the industries concerned to put web sites up that contain the media etc that people want and compete with the sites that offer that same content, in the best quality possible, unlike the sites the industries employ atm, rather than to just do a ridiculous stunt like this. i also was of the opinion that knowingly infecting a computer was illegal? if so, then the police should be sued for doing this when they know full well what the outcome will be

Anonymous Coward says:

About the first time that users get the idea that ads are dishing out malware, they’ll go to blocking those ads. I already do that as Google has been known to serve up malware in infected iFrames. In self protection not to have to deal with such, I allow no ads to be shown on my computer and I sure as heck aren’t going to be clicking on what I don’t see.

So in all this no one it seems has mentioned that the end result of this is going to be people not seeing ads. While the City of London may spin this positive in dishing out malware, it won’t take the advertising industry long to figure out it’s cutting into their revenue by the lack of users responding to any ads at all.

So this will have a positive effect in the boomerang of the proliferation of advertising, which is not a bad thing at all. Less advertising means a faster net with less spying all around.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is turning out just like Iraq for the UK, I can see how it’ll unfold.

-First they go in aggressively against porn sites and copyright infringement sites, and declare victory early after shutting down a bunch of them.

-Then more chaos reigns on the Internet as much worse sites/malware replace the old ones that got taken out, but the UK still pretends they’ve been victorious

-Then the UK will continue to engage in Gorilla warfare against those sites for the next decade, with little changing.

-And finally the UK will leave/give up with new porn and infringement sites having taken over the market and being just as big or bigger then the ones the UK shut down, which means nothing will have changed except who’s in charged, and the UK will have wasted billions of dollars.

Just like the US has in Iraq where there’s a lot of evidence that their ‘elected’ government won through stolen/sham elections, just like Saddam did.

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