With affiliate networks continuing to represent among the few key growth factors of the cybercrime ecosystem, it shouldn’t be surprising that cybercriminals continue introducing new services and goods with questionable quality and sometimes unknown origins on the market, with the idea to entice potential network participants into monetizing the traffic they can deliver through black hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization), malvertising, and spam campaigns.
In this post, I’ll profile a recently launched affiliate network selling iPhones that primarily targets Russian-speaking customers, and emphasizes the traffic acquisition scheme used by one of the network’s participants.
Imagine you’re a cybercriminal that has somehow managed to infect a 1000 U.S based hosts and is looking for ways to monetize his malicious activity? He could easily start spreading spam or phishing emails, use the infected hosts as a platform for disseminating related malware attacks, or basically data mine the infected hosts for accounting data to be later on sold to fellow cybercriminals.
What if all he wanted to do is earn as much profit in the shortest possible amount of time without investing more efforts into the monetization of the infected hosts? Is the cybercrime ecosystem mature enough to offer him an alternative? Appreciate the rhetoric. The maturing cybercrime ecosystem is fully capable of offering him a high liquidity monetization approach for earning revenue by infecting hosts and spreading a specific undetectable executable pushed by the pay-per-install affiliate network that I’ll profile in this post.
On their way to convert legitimate traffic into malware-infected hosts using web malware exploitation kits, cybercriminals have been actively experimenting with multiple traffic acquisition techniques over the past couple of years. From malvertising (the process of displaying malicious ads), to compromised high-trafficked web sites, to blackhat SEO (search engine optimization), the tools in their arsenal have been systematically maturing to become today’s sophisticated traffic acquisition platforms delivering millions of unique visits from across the world, to the cybercriminals behind the campaigns.
What are some of the latest campaigns currently circulating in the wild? How are cybercriminals monetizing the hijacked traffic? Are they basically redirecting to the landing page of an affiliate network, earning revenue in the process, or are they serving malicious software to unsuspecting and gullible end and corporate users?
Let’s find out by profiling a currently active blackhat SEO (search engine optimization) campaign at the popular document sharing web site Scribd, currently using double monetization of the anticipated traffic, namely, redirecting users to a dating affiliate network, and serving malware in between.
What are pharmaceutical scammers up to? From active participation in black hat search engine optimization campaigns, to spamvertising of bogus links – including QR Codes – and compromising of web sites with high page rank in order to redirect to pharmaceutical scams, scammers are keeping themselves pretty busy in order to monetize as much web traffic as possible.