A California-based ad firm has been inserting unauthorized advertisements on YouTube for viewers who used their video downloading software.
According to the BBC, the London based security research firm Spider.io found that Sambreel’s two video downloading plug-ins, The Best Video Downloader and Easy YouTube Downloader, had placed ads from prominent brands like Western Union, Domino’s and Norton on the YouTube website. Some of the ads have directed viewers to malware.
Spider.io explained some of its findings: “When a user who has installed these plug-ins visits Youtube.com multiple display ad slots are injected across the YouTube homepage, channel pages, video pages and search results pages.”
For instance, one of the ads shows a fake alert urging viewer to download an important computer update. When the user clicks the OK button, they are directed to a questionable site where the user is subject to malware downloads.
As for the brands in question, they purchased the ads from Sambreel, but only Sambreel profited from the exchange. The brands were also unaware that Sambreel’s software made the unauthorized ad placements on YouTube.
A YouTube spokesperson told Forbes that Sambreel’s actions violated several of Google’s policies: “Generally, applications that change users’ experiences in unexpected ways and provide no value to publishers are bad for users and bad for the web. We’re continuing to look into these types of bad actors and have banned them from using Google’s monetization and marketing tools.”
Sambreel has a track record for running into trouble with other social media networks for its plug-in tactics. Forbes reported that it has run into trouble with Google, which owns YouTube, before and with the social media network Facebook. Last year, a number of ad exchanges had banned Sambreel.
Sambreel did not reply to BBC and Forbes’ request for comment, but Yontoo, a Sambreel subsidiary, told Forbes in an auto-reply email that it had discontinued The Best Video Downloader and the Easy YouTube Downloader plug-ins.
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