MSNBC ran a great story about one of the largest spyware companies, Direct Revenue. Their software was bundled in with Morpheus and some other popular applications. The article points out that spyware applications have accounted for 11% of the total Internet ad revenue, an estimated $2 billion. It sounds like the staff at Direct Revenue has a great view of their end users.
The unsophisticated computer users subjected to Direct Revenue’s ads had a nickname among some staffers: “trailer cash.”
I’ve been pretty careful about not clicking on any ads or installing any software that bundles in adware, but I’ve still managed to get infected a few times. In fact, we don’t have any anti-spyware tools even installed on our computer since Karla and I know better than to click on pop-ups. It’s great to hear that even one of the the Direct Revenue employees got a taste of their own medicine.
Even Aurora’s creators fell victim as the program froze computers at Direct Revenue. One sales staffer, Judit Major, documented receiving more than 30 pop-up ads in one day, according to e-mails. Her computer crashed four times. “We are serving WAY TOO MANY pops per hour,” wrote Chief Technology Officer Daniel Doman in a June e-mail to the company’s brass. “If we overdo it, we will really drive users to get us the hell [off] their machine. We need to BACK OFF or we will kill our base.”
This form of advertising is extremely profitable and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Spyware typically targets less savvy computer users and these people are not installing programs such as Windows Defender or SpyBot. It’s amazing to see the number of large companies signing up with Direct Revenue for this type of advertising. Ben Edelman has documented a partial list of the Direct Revenue ads.
JPMorgan Chase confirms that it advertised with a Direct Revenue unit through the middle of last year, but says it was unaware of any spyware activity. Delta and Cingular declined to comment. Vonage didn’t respond to inquiries.
The companies that are using products from Direct Revenue are addicted to the higher volume of click-throughs than they get with other less intrusive methods.
Nute [a top sales executive] had a trademark line for corporate sales pitches, according to current and former sales employees. “It’s like crack,” he would say. “Once you try it, you’ll keep coming back for more.” Nute declined to comment.