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An Update On Affiliate Networks and Other Issues

Dear All

First of all, we wanted to thank our loyal customers for supporting us despite the issues we’ve experienced with rogue affiliates. Some of you might be interested in how we’re dealing with this and other issues.

Rogue affiliates

We’ve discovered a couple of websites gizri**.com and dealsandgiveawa**.net that contained some extremely deceptive ads that lead people to believe their computer is infected. The ads lead to this website. Because these affiliates are essentially anonymous and work via affiliate networks that do not disclose their sources we couldn’t identify the companies behind these ads. Instead we stopped all of our affiliate networks that do not disclose their affiliates.

Call Center Attacks

We have also seen an increase of prank calls to the call center we contract to support our customers. The callers proceed to harass, bully and racially abuse call center operators. Every single call, chat and interaction is recorded and will be investigated in due course.

Server Attacks

We have also experienced an abrupt increase in brute force SSH attacks coming from all over the world which is consistent with a typical botnet attack. We have blocked over 4K IP addresses so far and hardened the server security. All the attacks have been logged for further analysis as well.

Spammy websites

Despite disabling the affiliate networks we’re still seeing a number of websites which seem spammy or plain empty. We do not know why these websites send users (or bots) to outbyte. They most certainly are not getting paid for that. This could be a deliberate attempt to discredit the company. We have logged a massive amount of metadata (IP addresses, date and time patterns, etc) and are now investigating the source of these referrers.

In the meantime to prevent people from being misled to visit our website we decided to compile a list of these suspicious websites and ban them. Obviously we can only act where we see a referrer in the HTTP request. Unfortunately as referrers can be spoofed and are often stripped by security software and browsers (sometimes for good reasons) this temporary solution will only work for a small fraction of visitors.

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Deceptive Affiliates

Dear All

In the couple of weeks prior to April 8, 2020 we had seen a significant increase in downloads. This turned out to be a rather unfortunate consequence of some of the affiliates employing deceptive tactics to drive their traffic to our website. Outbyte had been working with affiliate networks who, in turn, contracted affiliates to drive traffic to publishers. The entire system was not transparent and we did not know who drives the traffic or the types of banners and web pages they used.

While it is usually a single bad apple among many good affiliates, we decided that our customers came first. As of April, 8 we had stopped working with all affiliate networks which were not 100% transparent about the affiliates that drive their traffic.

We at Outbyte want to see the Internet clean and free of deceptive advertisement. Here’s what we do on our part:

  • we have stopped working with non-transparent affiliate networks;
  • we work with AppEsteem to have Outbyte products certified and make sure they’re clean;
  • we work with antivirus companies to ensure full compliance (though we are routinely unable to establish a dialogue with MalwareBytes or DrWeb);
  • a call centre we work with is continuously monitored; we review the call centre’s interactions with our customers (including voice and video feed) to ensure high standards of service.

If you have come across deceptive or scareware tactics that drive users to our website, please contact us immediately. We really appreciate your support.

Warm regards,
Your team @ Outbyte