Saturday, March 26, 2011

Porn Sites Trick Advertisers

Dozens of big-name marketers and Internet companies have fallen victim to a scam orchestrated by a series of pornography sites.

In a new type of online-advertising fraud, these porn sites are trying to generate revenue by setting up junk pages and faking Web traffic. The porn sites include names such as hqtubevideos.com and pornoxo.com. It's unclear who owns the sites or how many visitors they have.

When a user visits one of these porn sites, the Web page launches dozens of pages that are hidden from the computer user. These hidden sites are filled with paid links to legitimate websites. Unbeknownst to the user, software built into the porn sites forces the user's computer to click on these links, sometimes hundreds of times, sending a flood of computer-generated traffic to legitimate websites.

No person is actually seeing or clicking on the ads, yet the operator of the scam collects commissions for directing traffic to sites like Web portal Lycos, video sites Mevio and Current TV, and others. And big advertisers, including Verizon Communications Inc. and TD Ameritrade Inc., are paying for ads that were never displayed to users. The websites say they weren't aware they were collecting money for ads that weren't shown.

"The criminal enterprise is very sophisticated," said Matthew Scott, an executive at AdSafe Media Ltd., a digital-ad protection company that says it discovered the scam, which ensnared some of its clients. "There has been explosive growth in the online advertising space, and at the same time, fraud and scams are evolving."

AdSafe said it has notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Google Inc. said its systems blocked the scam and it has contacted authorities to share the details of its investigation.

An FBI spokesman said the bureau doesn't comment on specific investigations but "is generally aware of these types of scams and is actively investigating a wide range of fraudulent cyber crime."

Several websites targeted by the scam said there weren't aware of the fraud until being contacted by the Journal.

"We have a 100% zero tolerance policy for that," said Ron Bloom, co-founder and chairman of Mevio.com. Current TV, which operates a cable TV channel, said it has filters in place to block traffic to its website from porn sites, and the traffic it received wasn't authorized. Lycos, whose yellowpages.lycos.com site received traffic from the porn sites, said it was investigating the matter.

Marketers and the companies involved in delivering the online ads said they take measures to combat such fraud.

"We are aware of these scams and aggressively fighting such advertising fraud with robust monitoring systems and investigative procedures," a Verizon spokesman said. "When we discover a scam we take immediate action."

Fraud has plagued the online-advertising business nearly since its beginning. Marketers constantly are on the watch for so-called click fraud. And this isn't the first time hoax websites have been a problem. But the problem has evolved to a new level of complexity.

"Occasionally a bad actor will circumvent even the best systems," said Google spokesman Rob Shilkin.

While it is hard to determine the actual scope of this fraud, advertising companies and websites say that such scams represent a small portion of their traffic.

AdSafe, the online-ad security firm, said its preliminary research found more than one thousand websites with possible links to the scam. In some instances it found more than 5,000 "invisible ads" being shown to an individual consumer after one visit to a porn site. AdSafe said the scheme likely has been running for at least several months.

Other experts said it is hard to measure the impact of online-ad fraud because it occurs in small scales across a broad network of websites. "It is death by a thousand paper cuts," said Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies Internet advertising and says that he comes across an average of 50 such scams a month.

A Journal analysis of the computer code transmitted during visits to one of the porn sites, hqtubevideos.com/play.html, revealed the site opens dozens of invisible pages—invisible to the user—with innocuous-sounding names such as relaxhealth.com and baldnesshealth.com.

Those sites are filled with paid links and have minimal content. In some cases they are hidden in tiny windows on the porn site that are no bigger than a single screen pixel. But they appear as normal pages in communications with other websites.

"We want to make sure we get the maximum value for our advertising dollars, and we always seek to stay ahead of the latest technique for abuse," said Robert Haverback, vice president of advertising at TD Ameritrade. "We and other advertisers need to stay on top of this." AT&T declined to comment.

Online-ad fraud prevention firm Double Verify says about 31% of the $100 million of online ad spending that it monitors each month is wasted for instances ranging from fraud to ads that are targeted to the wrong location.

"These guys pop up like mushrooms, they change their names and location and sites and come up with a new fraud and a new site with a different name," says Oren Netzer, chief executive of Double Verify. "It is a cycle where we always have to chase them down."

[Via Wall Street Journal]


Easy Scams: 10 Easy Ways to Make Money by Pulling Scams

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Albert Einstein's School Grades

The education council of the Canton Aargau certifies Albert Einstein final secondary-school examinations at 3rd of Oct., 1896 as follows:

German language and literature - 5  
French - 3
Italian - 5
History - 6
Geography - 4
Algebra - 6
Geometry - 6
Descriptive geometry - 6
Physics - 6
Chemistry - 5
Natural history - 5
Artistic drawing - 4
Technical drawing - 4

(6 - best grade, 1 - poorest)

[Via scienceblogs.de]

Monday, March 7, 2011

50% of US Workers Don't Turn off PCs at Night, Burning up $2.8 Bln per Year

Nearly half of US employees who use a PC at work don’t shut down their computers at the end of the day, wasting $2.8 billion every year powering 108 million unused PCs.

By shutting down computers each night, for example, a company with 10,000 PCs can save more than $165,000 a year in energy costs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

6 Money Habits That Are Illegal

1. Signing someone else's name on a check
Signing someone else's name on a check is generally considered forgery and would be illegal in most states. But suppose an adult child signs an elderly parent's name because the parent is incapacitated, or a parent signs a child's name because the child is away at college. Guess what? Those signatures are still forgeries, unless a power of attorney is in effect.

2. Using someone else's identity to obtain credit
The use of someone else's name and identity to obtain credit is an obvious no-no. But suppose a parent whose credit has been ruined uses a child's name and identity to open new credit accounts. Illegal? You bet.

3. Lying on a home loan application
Homebuyers and homeowners who want to refinance may be tempted to inflate their income or hide some of their debts to better their chances of receiving a "yes" from the lender. But lying on a loan application is fraud, and lenders do check up on applicants' information.

4. Writing 'bad' checks
Many banks offer overdraft protection that kicks in if you write a check for more than the balance of your account. But writing a check that you know is no good is illegal. The risk isn't negligible: some people do get prosecuted for writing bad checks.

5. Copying U.S. currency
Color printers, scanners and copiers make it surprisingly easy for just about anyone to replicate U.S. or foreign currency. But it is, in fact, illegal to print your own money and try to spend it to buy goods or services.

6. Defacing U.S. currency
U.S. currency isn't designed to be run through the clothes washer, written on or masticated by pets. Yet while accidental damage to currency normally isn't illegal, deliberate defacement is. Federal law prohibits any action that mutilates, cuts, defaces, perforates or glues together U.S. currency or otherwise renders bills unusable.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Popular Opposition to the Theory of Relativity in the 1920s

Shortly after the confirmation of his theory of general relativity in 1919, Albert Einstein was transformed into a media star of Weimar Germany. The overwhelming public response to the theory of relativity was not always positive; numerous accounts published during the 1920s claimed to refute his new theory. Einstein’s opponents were not limited to physicists and philosophers. Engineers, doctors, businessmen, and writers also raised strong objections to one of the most important scientific theories of the twentieth century. What were the motives of Einstein’s opponents? On what basis was his theory of relativity attacked so vociferously?

Although they had previously played no role in German academic life, during the 1920s scores of self-proclaimed researchers alleged to have proved the theory of relativity to be scientifically incorrect. Because the arguments set out in hundreds of ensuing publications frequently rested on fundamental misunderstandings of Einstein’s new theory, their accounts have largely been ignored by traditional history of science. Instead, attention has focused on the criticisms of Einstein’s work put forward by physicists who clung to classical physics, and philosophers who saw central elements of their ways of understanding the world threatened by Einstein’s fundamental restructuring of the basic principles of physics. Moreover, “scientific” arguments leveled against the theory of relativity were separated from “unscientific” accounts, many of which were political attacks on the person of Albert Einstein, a German Jew and outspoken defender of Germany’s post-WWI democracy.

A fresh perspective emerges when popular criticism of the theory of relativity is investigated beyond the frame of physical or philosophical plausibility. By exploring criticisms of Einstein’s work from the perspective of a history of knowledge broadly conceived to investigate bodies of knowledge beyond scientific disciplines, we are in a better position not only to understand the various arguments advanced by Einstein’s opponents, but also the bodies of knowledge that provided the basis for these arguments and the social contexts in which their various objections arose.

This new scholarly approach to Einstein’s opponents reveals that criticism of the theory of relativity outside of academic circles began much earlier than the 1920s. The roots of this opposition can be traced back to the nineteenth century, when popularization of the natural sciences led many citizens to devote their leisure to the pursuit of scientific understanding. This leisure-time study of science led some individuals to create universal theories of their own; in some cases these simple, often mechanical explanations of the world enabled them to assemble a cadre of adherents drawn from a shared popular-scientific milieu.

One such self-proclaimed researcher and Einstein opponent is Arthur Patschke (1865–1934). Employed by Siemens Schuckert, a German electrical engineering company, Patschke saw himself as more than a design engineer of steam engines. Patschke was convinced that all phenomena – from the movement of the heavens to human thought itself – could be traced to the collisions of tiny ether particles. On this mechanical basis, Patschke went on to develop a scientific worldview in which ether attained a quasi-religious status as the key to the mysteries of the world.

It was by and large scholars outside academia such as Patschke who claimed, in numerous pamphlets published during the 1920s, to have refuted Einstein’s theory of relativity. Their accounts were situated in the context of worldviews such as monism, the naturalist-inspired Lebensreform movement, and occultism. Encompassing not only social forms of organization, these worldviews also covered specific bodies of knowledge. Against this background it becomes clear why popular criticism of the theory of relativity was often put forward by individuals with little or no understanding of Einstein’s theory, individuals who nonetheless approached the work of refutation with a particular vengeance. Shaped as they were by their worldviews, these individuals regarded Einstein’s theory of relativity as unwelcome competition to their own attempts to interpret the universe.

A non-academic researcher such as Patschke could not help but react defensively to the replacement of classical physics with one that has more abstract foundations. Patschke, for his part, sought to determine which elements of the theory of relativity could be reconciled with his ether theory. He also attempted to show which parts of the theory of relativity were demonstrably false by reference to his own abstractions.

The controversy surrounding the theory of relativity was exceptionally heated. In many pamphlets one finds what might be described as a martial rhetoric of damnation; his opponents also staged acts of protest that sought to inflame public opinion against Einstein’s work. A complex process of marginalization and protest helps to account for the heated responses to Einstein’s theory.

Non-academic researchers like Patschke announced public lectures, submitted essays, and tried to establish contact with Einstein and other leading scholars in order to warn them – as well-intentioned colleagues – of the falsehood of the theory of relativity and to convince them of the veracity of their own scientific worldviews. Patschke and others like him were often simply ignored; in other instances, it was patiently explained how their criticisms of the theory of relativity had completely missed the mark. But because their observations were anchored in specific worldviews, Patschke and his associates were immune to this type of criticism. Einstein’s opponents were simply not prepared to question their own worldviews and instead sought alternative explanations for why their objections were disregarded by the academics. With time, many turned to conspiracy to account for their marginal status: plots favoring Einstein, so they imagined, explained his success and their marginalization. Having reached this point, any sort of resolution of the controversy had become impossible.