Unraveling a baroque, snarled, multimillion-dollar porn-ad clickfraud scam

Panos Ipeirotis, who writes the aptly named "A Computer Scientist in a Business School" blog, describes how he made national news by unraveling a multimillion-dollar "clickfraud" enterprise that used hidden frames, pornographic traffic brokerages, clever misdirection and obfuscation techniques, traffic laundering, skimmed traffic, and other techniques from the shadier side of the Internet's ad-supported ecosystem to extract anywhere from $400K to $5M to date. The monetary losers were pornographic sites, but a number of high-profile "legit" sites were implicated, unwittingly used as "laundries" for the traffic. The scheme itself is awfully baroque, and Ipeirotis does an admirable job of laying it out, while introducing all these marvelously weird terms describing the modern practices of Internet grifters.

At this point, we now know how this person makes money. Clearly, there is click-fraud: the scammer is employing click-fraud services to click on the pay-per-click ads "displayed" in his parked domains. If some of the ads are also pay-per-impression, he may also get paid for these invisible impressions that happen within the 0x0 iframe.

Why the parked domains though? Why not doing the same directly within the porn site? The answer is simple: Traffic laundering.

What do I mean by "traffic laundering"? First, the ad networks are unlikely to place many ads within a porn site. On the other hand, they have ad-placement services for parked domains. Second, the publishers that get the traffic from the parked domains see in the referral URLs some legitimately-sounding domain names, not a porn site. Even if they go and check the site, they will only see an empty site full of ads.

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The child brothels of Bangladesh (and an odd link with cattle and chemotherapy)

Hashi, a 17-year-old sex worker, embraces "husband" (known as a "Babu") inside her small room at the Kandapara brothel in Tangail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh.

Many young and inexperienced prostitutes have "lovers" or "husbands" who normally live outside the brothel occasionally taking money and sex from them in exchange for security in this male dominated society. She earns about 800-1000 taka daily ($9.75 - $12.19) servicing around 15-20 customers every day. Hashi is one of hundreds of mostly teenage sex workers living in a painful life of exploitation in Kandapara slum's brothel who take Oradexon, a steroid used by farmers to fatten their cattle, in order to gain weight and appear "healthier" and more attractive to clients. Picture taken March 4, 2012.

Here's a longer Reuters story about the plight of young prostitutes in Bangladesh, and the phenomenon of using this drug to enhance sex appeal.

The news item is a few weeks old, but I stumbled on it today while researching the origin and side effects of a steroid my oncologist is giving me during chemotherapy. Surprise: It's the same drug. I never knew breast cancer patients had so much in common with cattle and Bangladeshi child sex workers.

(REUTERS/Andrew Biraj) Read the rest

Science, sex, and your hands

Here's an interesting fact about sexual dimorphism: On average, if you were born a male, your hands are a little bit different from those of someone who was born a female. Most men have a pointer finger that is a little bit shorter than their ring finger. Most women have a pointer finger that's about the same length as their ring finger, if not a little longer.

People have noted this differences between the sexes for centuries. But what's it mean? Truth is, we really aren't sure yet. But it is correlated to a lot of awfully interesting things. In fact, some scientists think "the finger thing" (as I like to call it) is a hallmark of prenatal hormone exposure. Because of that, in the scientific literature, you'll find lots of examples of studies that try to find a connection between the finger thing and seemingly disparate traits, such as sexual orientation and gender expression.

We talked about the finger thing on a recent episode of the Sex is Fun podcast—what it's all about, what fingers could be telling us about people, and why it's maybe all just a bunch of hooey. Take a listen!

Also, for the record: My right hand has lady fingers. My left hand does not. How about you?

Sex is Fun

Image: Hand, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from teleyinex's photostream

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Military STD posters, WWI-II

On How to Be a Retronaut, a collection of military STD posters from the end of WWI and through WWII.

Update: These appear to be drawn from a larger set at Mental Floss.

Military STD Posters, 1918-1945 Read the rest

Seeking Asian Female

In the WSJ, Jeff Yang reviews "Seeking Asian Female," Debbie Lum's documentary about white guys romantically fixated on Asian women—specifically, one white guy, and his quest to marry the Asian lady of his dreams. The film debuted this week at the annual SXSW festival in Austin, and follows the story of Steven, "a 60-year-old, twice-divorced white male with an uncanny resemblance to Aussie actor Geoffrey Rush and a case of yellow fever bordering on the terminal."

Steven’s quixotic mission to find and marry a “young Asian bride” had already taken up years of his life and cost him thousands of dollars in memberships to online matchmaking sites like Asian Friend Finder and international “introduction services” that promised to connect him with the “cherry blossom” or “sunshine girl” of his dreams. When Steven is first introduced, Lum says in voiceover that “the first time I visited him in his own home, I had to fight the urge to leave.” We can immediately see why. A giggling Steven, addressing Lum as she ascends the stairs, shouts a hearty hello while waving her in: “Welcome! Welcome! Your hair looks cute! You look very Chinese, with the bangs…and you know I like that!”

Read the rest here. Trailer below.

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Perv allegedly converts pub urinal drain into "piss dungeon"

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with reveling in being drenched in a near-continuous stream of fresh, boozy urine, but if that's the way you're kinked, it seems rude to spirit away the yellow stuff without informed consent: "Listen mate, this is gonna sound totally insane, but I’ve just gone for a piss in the urinal and I could’ve sworn I saw an eyeball looking up from the hole." (Thanks, Ben!) Read the rest

Video: Rush Limbaugh's Seventy Sexist Smears

ThinkProgress Video put together a supercut video capturing no fewer than 70 recent examples of Rush Limbaugh's repulsive and hateful obsession with Sandra Fluke. "She's having so much sex, it's amazing she can still walk!" Read the rest

Kitties and Titties (NSFW)

A Tumblog of Greatness: kitties and titties (NSFW). Contains nudity, both female and feline. Not for kids, or for adults browsing the web while at work. BB mod Antinous points out that they omitted one obvious image (that one's safe for work). (thanks, Tara McGinley) Read the rest

Most risque ad for drain-clog remover, ever

Umm?

Official Liquid-Plumr Double Impact Commercial (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Pin-up art on old fruit-crate labels

In the Vintage Ads LiveJournal group, a contributor called Noluck-Boston is currently digging up a fantastic set of cheesecake/pin-up fruit crate labels of yesteryear. Here's Foot-High Melons, and On Rush Vegetables. Read the rest

Rudy Rucker's "Outspoken Authors" book: Surfing the Gnarl

Surfing the Gnarl is the latest volume in PM Press's wonderful Outspoken Authors series: a collection of slim, handsome chapbooks curated by Terry Bisson that combine essays, stories and interviews (I've previously written here about the Kim Stanley Robinson volume, as well as my own).

This one is devoted to one of the world's happiest and most mutated happy mutants, Rudy Rucker, the prolific mathematician, computer scientist and psychedelic transreal science fiction writer. Rucker's addition to the series is a very worthy one, with two very weird, characteristically ruckerian stories. The first, "The Men in the Back Room at the Country Club," is a quintessentially transreal story, a kind of shaggy dog piece that outweirds itself with every successive sentence, playing what Rucker calls a "science fiction power-chord" in the guise of an alien invasion tale. The second story, "Rapture in Space," is a drugged out sex story about the slackers who use a robo-caller-driven Ponzi scheme to finance the world's first orbital pornography video, and it, too, is a perfect capsule of what makes Rucker Rucker.

In between these stories is an essay, "Surfing the Gnarl," which posits a theory of literature that ties approaches to fiction in with the mathematics of complexity and randomness, and is an illuminating piece of literary critical thinking. As with the other volumes in the series, this one concludes with an interview between Terry Bisson and Rucker, in which Rucker is his charmingly oblique and uncompromising self on subjects from the history of cyberpunk to the nature of the universe. Read the rest

Will you be ours? Valentine's Day for the polyamorous

This Valentine's Day, enjoy a classic essay by Annalee Newitz about celebrating differently-defined love.

(image: Shutterstock) Read the rest

Anatomy of an unsafe abortion

Dr. Jen Gunter, who is an OB/GYN and a pain medicine physician, writes a harrowing account of receiving a patient who has undergone an unsafe abortion, and is bleeding to death:

On the gurney lay a young woman the color of white marble. The red pool between her legs, ominously free of clots, offered a silent explanation.

“She arrived a few minutes ago. Not even a note.” My resident was breathless with anger, adrenaline, and panic.

I had an idea who she went to. The same one the others did. The same one many more would visit. A doctor, but considering what I had seen he could’t have any formal gynecology training. The only thing he offered that the well-trained provers didn’t was a cut-rate price. If you don’t know to ask, well, a doctor is a doctor. That’s assuming you are empowered enough to have such a discussion. I was also pretty sure his office didn’t offer interpreters.

I needed equipment not available in an emergency room. I looked at the emergency room attending. “Call the OR and tell them we need a room. Now.” And then I turned to my resident. I was going to tell him to physically make sure a room, any room, was ready when we arrived, but he had already sprinted towards the stairs. He knew.

Read the entire account here: Anatomy of an unsafe abortion.

Required reading in this year of presidential elections in America, in which so many candidates would have us return to the dark era in which abortion was illegal. Read the rest

This Valentine's Day, say it with 55 gallons of lube

Amazon Link. I can't tell what's funniest here, the user reviews, or the pricing and seller details:

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Sex doll in a box

The head of an inflatable sex doll is pictured in a box at Ningbo Yamei plastic toy factory, on the outskirts of Fenghua, Zhejiang province, February 13, 2012. The company started producing sex dolls three years ago, and now owns a total of 13 types of dolls at the average price of 100 RMB (16 USD). More than 50,000 sex dolls were sold last year, about fifteen percent of which were exported to Japan, Korea and Turkey, according to the company. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) Read the rest

The Incal: classic, weird-ass French space-opera comic drawn by Moebius, reprinted in English

In 1981, comics writer Alejandro Jodorowsky teamed up with French comic artist legend Moebius and created a new French comic serial called The Incal, (allegedly salvaging a bunch of material Jodorowsky created for an aborted film adaptation of Dune). The Incal's story is barely comprehensible, a mystical, satirical space-opera that anticipates many of cyberpunk's tropes. But the story isn't the point of The Incal. Reading Self-Made Hero's new English edition of Incal is an exciting and delightful experience for reasons having nothing at all to do with the consistency or comprehensibility of its plot.

Rather, The Incal is a triumph of glorious, self-indulgent, eyeball-kicking science fiction high weirdness. Jodorowsky's plotting strategy seems to have consisted of making up the weirdest stuff he could think of, getting bored, chucking in a bunch of new, weirder stuff, and repeating as necessary. New plot elements are conjured up from thin air without explanation or rhyme or reason. No pretense is made to any kind of underlying physics or poleconomy or philosophy.

Instead, Moebius just draws the hell out of Jodorowsky's fevered notions, producing a strong and curious aesthetic sensation that is quite pleasing and a little freaky. The creators of The Incal sued The Fifth Element for allegedly ripping it off (they lost), and Fifth Element is a pretty good point of reference for what goes on in The Incal: innumerable stylish, semi-erotic, high-tech incoherencies sprayed at the reader at a furious pace, fast enough that the fact that none of it makes much sense hardly has time to sink in. Read the rest

Cyclists would rather ride a bike than have sex

In a recent survey of 5000 Bicycling magazine readers, 50% of men and 58% of women said that—if pressed to choose between sex or bikes—they'd pick the bikes.(Via Maria Popova) Read the rest

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