Spyware is the bane of the Internet useris life: browser toolbars, peer-to-peer sharing programs, chat clients and more have been revealed to be front-ends for more sinister applications. A Salon article reveals the inner workings of a shady Internet marketing company. Hereis a sample:
According to (a former Vice-President) Lazuka, Website Results habitually submitted fraudulent invoices to its largest customers, inflating the amount of traffic it had delivered to their sites, in hopes that they would pay without looking too closely.
"They selectively picked out clients like eBay that had big budgets and paid their bills without tracking whether we really sent them the traffic," he said.
Garen Razoian, a software developer who was with the company for nine months in 1999, said he attended meetings at which company executives talked of sending such phony invoices.
"Thatis the kind of thing they were always considering, as if fraud was a normal way to do business," said Razoian.
To further pad its billable numbers, the company developed a software program, referred to as "The Zebra Project," that was designed to make it look as if lots of Web surfers had been clicking at search sites on hyperlinks that led to Website Resultsi customersi sites. Since many clients paid Website Results for delivering traffic on a "cost per click" basis, the automatic program helped to boost its revenue.
"It couldnit be detected. It went around clicking our clientsi links with false traffic. They were stealing from and cheating our clients," said Lazuka.
From there, the company igraduatedi to employee intimidation, making an action movie on company time and money, and using websites to install spyware without the useris knowledge or consent. You can read the entire sordid story in full at Salon. Thanks to Observer Darla Sasaki for the link!