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zvelo Blog

Welcome to the zvelo Blog

The zvelo blog is where folks from zvelo discuss issues facing our markets – ad tech, network security and mobile service provider analytics.  We discuss web security, malicious traffic, ad fraud, data breaches, artificial intelligence, fake traffic, website categorization, phishing, bots, privacy, BlackHat, DEF CON, Hack-in-the-Box, contextual targeting, semantic targeting, privacy, online safety and more.

EU-US Privacy Shield: EU Commission and United States agree on new framework for transatlantic data flows

EU-US Privacy Shield: EU Commission and United States agree on new framework for transatlantic data flows

EU-US Privacy Shield EU Commission and United States agree on new framework for transatlantic data flows A new US/EU arrangement puts stronger regulations on companies in the U.S. to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. A few highlights that […]

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Ad Blocking: Consumer Response to Dismal User Experience

Ad Blocking: Consumer Response to Dismal User Experience

Ad Blocking: Consumer Response to Dismal User Experience Ad Blocking is garnering much attention these days and statistics show there is a dramatic increase in the number of consumers who are taking advantage of ad blocking technologies. In fact, a recent IAB study noted a 48% YOY […]

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And Now There’s MaaS: “Malware as a Service!”

And Now There’s MaaS: “Malware as a Service!”

 And Now There’s MaaS: “Malware as a Service!” The cyber arms race just got crazier. You’ve heard of SaaS…DaaS… now there’s MaaS – “Malware as a Service.” This means cybercrooks are figuring out tricks to make the life of anti-virus heros much harder. The UK’s National Crime […]

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IAB Report shows $8.2B a year being lost to online fraud and malware in the digital advertising industry.

IAB Report shows $8.2B a year being lost to online fraud and malware in the digital advertising industry.

IAB Report shows $8.2B a year being lost to online fraud and malware in the digital advertising industry. A new report* released  by the Interactive Advertising Bureau called, “What Is An Untrustworthy Supply Chain Costing the Digital Advertising Industry,” shows that $8.2 billion being lost to online fraud […]

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An experiment in buying Internet traffic – video

An Experiment in Buying Internet Traffic zvelo Chief Security Scientist, Mark Ryan Talabis, wanted to see if he could buy Internet traffic and if so, would the traffic actually be human generated or would it be driven by bots or of low quality. He performed an experiment […]

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‘Ware the Web-the Lesson from the Yahoo Malvertising Attack

‘Ware the Web-the Lesson from the Yahoo Malvertising Attack The ad tech industry has been reeling for the past 12 months over ad fraud and the industry is starting to come to terms with it. But unfortunately, ad fraud is just the tip (albeit, a very costly […]

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Pre-emptive ad fraud detection = protection

Pre-emptive ad fraud detection = protection On June 26th, Kathy Leake, CEO of Qualia, wrote a very thoughtful column entitled “We Need Clearer Fraud Definitions, More Standard Measurement.” In it, she called for fraud definitions to be agreed upon between buyers and sellers and for pre-emptive fraud […]

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The Magnitude of the Breach

The Magnitude of the Breach On Thursday, June 4, it was announced that there was a large breach of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) of the federal government. The Chinese are fingered in the breach, in which about 4 million people’s records were lost in the […]

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Ad Age looks inside Google’s war on ad fraud

Ad Age looks inside Google’s war on ad fraud Ad Age had an opportunity to look inside the hood of Google’s war on ad fraud and the article is an eye opener for those who really have never looked into the dark places on the web. Although […]

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An Experiment: Adventures in Buying Internet Traffic

An Experiment:  Adventures in Buying Internet Traffic On April 22nd, 2015, zvelo Chief Security Scientist, Mark Ryan Talabis presented a five minute video on buying low cost Internet traffic to replicate ad fraud.  First he set up a honeypot site; then he shopped some blackhat traffic vendors […]

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Too Damn Rich – Ad Fraud

Too Damn Rich – Ad Fraud I recently read an article that predicts global ad tech revenue will rise from a forecasted humble $30 billion for 2015, to $100 billion in 2020. If ad tech were a country, it would have a larger economy than 120 countries. […]

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Mobile Advertising

As a media buyer previously, I was always frustrated with the lack of tracking on iOS in mobile inventory. However, it was possible to track performance on Android and as Android’s market share grew, so did the conversions attributed to mobile display. Mobile apps, however, were another […]

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Explaining zvelo Contextual Categorization

The URL checker found on the zvelo.com homepage, previously known as the “Test-a-site” tool, serves to demo various contextual categorizations about URLs that can be derived by licensing zvelo contextual categorization and malicious website detection services. When queried, the URL checker yields a sample of data sets […]

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How Ad Networks are Being Used for Scamvertising

How Ad Networks are Being Used for Scamvertising The Internet age has shown us a myriad of online scams, from get rich quick schemes to winning the lottery, typically originating via an email hook. This is a blind way of distributing scams, since scammers have no way […]

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Crowdsourced Security for Web Threat Intelligence

If we have a thousand monkeys typing away on a thousand typewriters, surely they can produce great works of literature – or so goes the popular adaptation of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. But in the context of information security, a similar idea has been taking shape in past few years. Crowdsourced security, leveraging on input from a host of geographically dispersed systems, is slowly gaining ground as a means to provide actionable threat intelligence for both the public and private sectors.

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Contextual Categorization & Brand Safety – French Child Abuse Trial

Advertisements are everywhere, from print publications to road-side billboards, and of course TV and on the Web. The intent of advertising is no different regardless of the medium. Advertisers are constantly feuding to win over consumer sentiment. On the Internet, ad-serving technologies have become so advanced that ads can now be targeted based on one’s individual web browsing history and behaviors, likes, shares, location, device type and other factors. From time to time, however, ad placements land severely out-of-context, and here is one such example of online advertising gone bad.

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zvelo Joins IAB to aid in fight against ad fraud

Ad fraud continues to plague the online advertising industry and advertiser trust in automated ad-serving technologies continues to dwindle. It’s not just traditional display advertising that’s susceptible. Digital video and mobile advertising are seeing their fair share of bot (non-human) generated impressions and clicks as well. zvelo has recently become an Associate Member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to help mold industry best practices to combat ad fraud.

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Open Source Intelligence: The Web’s Dirty Little Secret

Our willingness to surrender personal privacy in exchange for services that we now consider essential, as discussed in a previous article, has made it much easier for large governments and private individuals alike to collect information.

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Giving Up Our Privacy and Liking It

We are constantly reminded of the growing number of privacy concerns from the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Some are quick to blame governments or commercial entities when our personal information is compromised. Very few stop to think whether or not the blame should be pointed at ourselves. To what extent are we as end-users responsible for facilitating our own personal privacy?

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To WWW or Not to WWW? – zvelo categorization

If one performs the search “use www or not,” well over a billion results in many of the most popular search engines are returned. The focus of each result may differ. For zvelo, the usage is irrelevant because its contextual categorization processes are designed to identify and handle each component of a URL. At a simplistic view, the basic components of a URL are the following:

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Data Protection – What to ask after a data breach

Cybercrime against high-profile entities like eBay and Target is on the rise, and the media has conjured up nightmarish scenarios of cyber-criminals going on shopping sprees with our well-earned cash – easily obtained through stolen credit card information. The risks that the general public faces vary and should not be applied equally.

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More Relevancy for Ad Targeting with Greater Granularity

zvelo once offered 53 categories that were used to classify content on websites about Businesses & Services, Politics & Law, Portal Sites and others. This was later raised to 141 categories to help cover even more topics. The latest version boasts nearly 500 categories, making it one of the most granular categorization sets in the industry. We’ve managed to upgrade our categorization systems to better serve the needs of our existing and future technology partners and following is one example why this matters.

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Top websites are targets for malvertising

The importance of the Alexa top websites can never be discounted in zvelo’s day-to-day operations. Providing contextual data sets about the Alexa top sites is a vital element for the online advertising market because it can assist in determining the most ideal and brand-safe placement of online ads and other promotional materials.

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Thoughts on Secure Programming, Education and BYOD

Heartbleed vulnerability logoRecent events serve as the best example of how the context of security has shifted from the once server-centric model to that of a decentralized threat landscape. From the Heartbleed attacks to the widespread Internet Explorer vulnerabilities and finally the sensationalized OAuth issues, it appears that even organizations with a hardened perimeter infrastructure are just as vulnerable as an end-user at home. Although threats geared towards enterprise infrastructure are by no means going away, the prevalence of vulnerabilities affecting end-users are alarming to say the least.

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Full Path URL Content Classification

Given the dynamic nature of the majority of today’s websites, categorization at the full path URL versus the base domain is superior and now required. Parts of a website include the top-level domain (.com, .org, etc.), the base domain (example.com), sub-domain (subdomain.example.com) or sub-path (example.com/page). When categorizing content, it is highly important to recognize exactly what is being classified within a website because content can differ dramatically across full path URLs.

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Big Year of Change for the IWF

The Internet Watch Foundation works to remove online videos and images of child sexual abuse and its 2013 Annual & Charity Report highlighted significant milestones achieved and a big year of change.

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Website categorization and URL Parameters

What is a URL parameter? Quite simply it is a string of characters, or a query string, that is appended to a URL that contains data. This data is passed to predefined web applications to find the appropriate content and return it back to the user’s web browser which then generates the entire web page. The query string can also be used for various other methods such as identifying a user’s session or using it as a way to look up information about your online bank account after you have logged in. URLs with parameters are used by various types of web sites however online shopping, auction, and banking type sites are probably the most prevalent.

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Using Keyword Density for Website Categorization

Manually classifying the content on a single web page takes but a few seconds to accomplish. Analyzing the keywords – words or phrases – used and the number of instances of each – keyword density – is one way to go about it. When needing to classify the content on billions of web pages at a time, however, the task becomes overwhelmingly daunting for any human eye to handle. In this scenario, only an automated content classification engine can succeed.

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Phishing Websites Detected by zvelo

Prior to this blog post, zveloLABS published a phishing URL alert about fake Apple account verification websites. Now, zvelo’s team of engineers and researchers has unearthed a new phishing attack campaign using fraudulent Facebook log-in sites.

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WaterHole Attacks – Compromised Websites

Instances of large-scale compromises of both private industry and public institutions in 2013 prompted a flurry of activity among security researchers to identify emerging and established threats. Commonly identified as Advance Persistent Threats (APTs), this phenomenon is expected to continue well into the foreseeable future. Fundamental to the spread of these threats is one of their foremost methods of propagation – a water hole attack.

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Detecting & Categorizing Websites that Promote Self-Harm

zvelo has received many requests from its technology partners who are in the web filtering and parental control sectors to institute and support a new category that can be used to identify websites that promote self-harm behaviors. As a result of such demand, a new “Self Harm” category has been added to the zveloDB® URL database.

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Phishing Website Alert: Fake My Apple ID Account Verification URL

zveloLABS discovered a phishing website masquerading as an account verification page for Apple IDs, as depicted in the following screenshot and explained in this blog post.

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Content categorization Quality Assurance at zvelo

How does zvelo provide the most accurate content categorization service and the best URL database available? The approach is two-fold and while a substantial chunk of the workload is handled by zvelo’s line-up of machine learning and artificial intelligence-based categorization processes and systems, the quality assurance and other daily efforts put forth by its human Web Analysts can never be discounted.

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Internet Safety Resources, Guides and Tips for Everyone

This article will be updated periodically, in support of numerous global online safety awareness campaigns occuring every year – Safer Internet Day (promoted in February), Cyber Security Awareness Month (October), IWF Awareness Day (also in October) and others. During these times, web safety advocates, companies, organizations and professionals worldwide raise awareness about safer and more responsible use of online technologies and mobile devices. Following is a living repository of online resources, guides, tips and entities aimed at helping everyone enjoy worry-free Internet experiences. Additional web safety resources will be hand-picked and added as they are discovered. To possibly be included in this list, or if other online safety resources exist that deserve mention, please feel free to comment below. Including a link and a brief description with each comment helps.

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Content Categorization of a Dynamic Website

Static HTML websites are becoming increasingly rare, and nowadays sites pack quite the punch. We’ve grown accustomed to photo and video slideshows, widgets, feeds, social network integrations, and other dynamic elements. Websites come overloaded with media, are more interactive, and the content can vary dramatically from page-to-page and can differ even more between end-users or browsing sessions. Much of the content is pulled in dynamically from external sources and most of us fuel the Internet’s growth by creating and uploading content of our own daily and at extremely high upload rates. Making sense of it all can be quite the challenge for technology vendors “needing to know” and following are insights into zvelo’s content categorization approach.

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Ad Fraud and the Bots Gaming Digital Advertising

Reports are plentiful of non-human bots gaming the online advertising industry by delivering fraudulent impressions and click traffic, and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) took note. The IAB released the “Traffic Fraud: Best Practices for Reducing Risk to Exposure” on December 5, 2013, to help online media buyers, publishers and ad networks mitigate the dilemma.

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Experiment Raises Online Privacy Eyebrow

People don’t seem to worry much about privacy when “checking in” to a favorite local restaurant or coffee shop, or from other social media posts that reveal one’s location. What if you were approached by a complete stranger who knew your name and other personally indefinable information within minutes after making an upload? A few socialites got quite the shock after a social media experiment revealed how much personal information can be extracted from publicly viewable status updates.

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Government Web Filtering in the UK

In mid-2013, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, began a push to block pornographic material on the Web in UK households. Under the new legislation, porn would be filtered by default and citizens would have to opt-in to view such adult content. Enforcement of such an ambitious initiative comes with many content categorization and technical challenges, not just in the UK, but within any internet service provider infrastructure.

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Hack In The Box 2013 Kuala Lumpur Highlights – RFID, AIS and SDR

zveloLABS once again attended the 2013 Hack In The Box (HITB) conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, held in mid-October. Of all the wide variety of talks conducted during the conference, I found two correlated with the vulnerabilities of RFID systems to be the most intriguing. I’ve summarized them below.

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Adult Content Accessible at U.S. WiFi Hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots commonly found in many American coffee shops, restaurants and other popular after-school hang outs are providing kids with what they demand – free Internet access. This may help keep them connected with family or friends, in addition to sparing parents from costly data plan overages, but the complimentary Web access was proven to come with a twist in an Adaptive Mobile independent study. The adult, dating, extremist, drug, gambling and other similarly objectionable content typically blocked at home by some type of parental controls solution is easily accessible by kids at these Wi-Fi locations.

 

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