The Truth About Survey Ads and Adware

Understanding Adware The Truth About Survey Ads and Adware The Truth About Survey Ads and Adware 12

At Monumetric, we care a lot about what type of ads you are seeing on your site. We don’t employ pop-up ads and routinely block ads that don’t serve our sites well. If our publishers see ads they don’t like they can work with their account rep to block that ad.

We recently got this question from a publisher:

Is this from Monumetric? I’ve never seen it before on my site and I have no other ad networks. This “survey” scrolls across to the middle of the screen while you’re reading.

 ad The Truth About Survey Ads and Adware The Truth About Survey Ads and Adware ad

Nathan Putnam answered this question: We care deeply about your sites and ultimately their performance, so every security or malware issue is taken very seriously. Whenever you have a concern it is fully reviewed by our support team. We wanted to help prevent ads like this and how you can avoid/prevent them.

Myths about ad serving and malware/spyware

First, there’s a difference between malware/spyware and advertisements/surveys.

Malware: If you get a pop up that your flash plugin or any other plugin is out of date. DO NOT EVER CLICK ON IT. If you hover over the pop-up example above you’d see the click through URL is not from Adobe. If you’re concerned about your flash player, go to adobe and update it: (http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/) only go to adobe.com.

If you install a program from a sketchy source on your browser it can do all sorts of bad things including put malware on your site when you’re logged into it.

Surveys are different. The pop-up pictured above is from a company recently purchased by Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en.html). They are used for real market research and are sent through Google, ComScore and many, many other companies. We have blocked them through the ad side but it can still come through some of your plugins, widgets or analytics tools depending on their ties to Nielsen.

To Opt-out of these surveys do this:

How can you opt out?

“Viewers of ad campaigns are free to opt out of measurement by the Nielsen Online Brand Effect service at any time. An opt-out button is provided at the bottom of this page. This button will download an “opt-out” or “do-not-track” cookie onto your machine and you will no longer be tracked or surveyed about ad campaigns that you may view. As long as this opt-out cookie remains on your computer, you will no longer be tracked or surveyed by Nielsen Online Brand Effect about ad campaigns that you may view. You must keep this opt-out cookie on your computer and not remove it in order to remain opted out of the collection of information through the Nielsen Online Brand Effect service. If your machine automatically removes cookies or you remove the opt-out cookie periodically, you will have to replace it by opting out again.

To opt out please click the button at the bottom of the page.

If you do not want your in-app ad exposure measured in a mobile
environment, or you would like to clear your tracking history, you can adjust the settings on your mobile device. On an iOS 6+ device, go to the device’s Settings menu, and change the setting to limit ad tracking. To reset your tracking on Android mobile devices, go to the Settings menu and reset your device to its original factory settings.”

Source- http://www.vizu.com/w3c/policy.htm

Here’s how our ads work:
1. We place a piece of code (ad tag) on your blog/site.
2. As a browser loads your page when it hits the div containing the ad tag. It then tells the browser “Hey browser, I’m an advertisement; you need to call/follow this link to pull the correct ad to fill this space”.
3. That link calls our Google server and starts a bidding process between all of our advertisers based on audience and context.
4. The winning bid delivers a “creative” or ad tag from the advertiser to the server and it is served to your site.

The important thing to understand is that everything that happens after the ad call hits our server happens inside of a Google server. We set very strict parameters and sizes in the server. If the creative doesn’t match those criteria then Google can’t serve it to the spot on your site calling for the ad. It’s actually hard to get all of the criteria to match so it does serve an ad. If you look at your source code you will see that every single ad tag from us is size specific and has custom criteria. Only creatives (ads) that size and that match that specific criteria can be served in those spots.

Because Google is serving all of the advertisements it also scans them prior to serving them. If they have malware or spyware it won’t serve the creative. It also kills the entire advertiser so that ad provider can’t buy inventory anymore in our set up. So to serve malware through a Google server you have to hack Google, which is possible but very rare and unlikely. Earlier this year in September, an advertiser was serving malware through Google and was shut down. It’s important to point out that when it happens, its huge news and taken care of very quickly.

It’s far easier to simply hack an older WordPress plugin, theme, or browser extension to gain access to a site to drop cookies and pass Malware/spyware on its user’s browsers. This enables malware/spyware providers to interrupt ad calls or plugin calls (flash plugin etc.) and redirect them to their servers to spread more malware/spyware and infect more users. When you see malware it doesn’t necessarily mean that your own site has been hacked just that you’ve been to one that has been. I’ve been on every site in Monumetric many, many times (it’s my job) and I’ve never seen a spyware/malware pop-up on any of your sites on my computer. I use chrome as my browser and a free version of AVG (malware software) running all the time. I also clear my cookies and cache on my browser at least once a week because it’s just a good internet habit. We recommend that you do the same.

TL;DR – Legitimate online surveys happen regardless of what you do to stop them. They’re like sweeps during TV finale seasons. You can opt-out and if you hate them please do so. We’ve blocked it from happening through your ads but you still may see them especially during holiday seasons. They are not spyware or malware. Malware is most often on your browser from a site you’ve visited or a link you shouldn’t have clicked. Never click on anything that tells you to update a plugin or software that doesn’t come from the actual maker of said software i.e. never download anything flash from anywhere other than adobe.com. I hope this helps you understand a little more about what is going on and possible solutions.

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