Pop-up University

Was I seeing things? I don’t know. It’s never happened before.

I just visited the site of a well-known professor at a US University, Firefox alerted me to a failed pop-up ad. Curious as to what pop-ups the University researchers might be serving I refreshed the page and this time allowed the pop-ups.

They were ads for Flirtomatic and an online gambling site.

Curious, I thought.

So, I ran Spybot S&D and Adaware Personal just to double check that I hadn’t gained some trojan or spyware along the way. Of course, these two programs may have let something slip through the net but working together they pretty much catch 99%.

Nothing, perfectly clean machine.

Opened the site again, this time in Internet Explorer 7. Same result. Pop-ups blocked. Tried it from another machine offsite and asked a couple of friends to double check. Same result.

I thought for a moment it might be University policy, but no other pages produced the pop-ups. I suspect therefore that it’s someone in the department, a student with an affiliate ad account, perhaps, hoping to cash in on site visitors. I asked the webmaster at the University to look into this and within 24h they’d replied to say the ads had been removed. So, it wasn’t just me. They didn’t say whether my hunch was right or whether it was a compromised server.

Of course, Sciencebase would never stoop so low. We carry editorially independent advertising to help subsidise the site, of course, who doesn’t? But, if you ever see a pop-up let me know and I’ll advise on how to clear your site of Spyware, because it won’t have been coded at this end of the service!

9 thoughts on “Pop-up University”

  1. Brad, I suspect it’s just a case of the student-hacker (or cracker more properly) having the skills or access to embed a nasty where it shouldn’t be.

  2. The creator of Spybot S&D just got some kind of legal threat from a spyware-trojan type company and has slapped them back in the face with a great riposte. More kudos to Spybot-S&D

  3. “… it’s someone in the department, a student with an affiliate ad account, perhaps, hoping to cash in on site visitors…they’d replied to say the ads had been removed.”

    That student might possibly have been executed.

  4. I do hope not…

    …but I still think it was worth alerting them to it, should they happen to get any press interest from other more prominent bloggers or journalists. Imagine what an NYT journalist might say, for instance, seeing a pop-up ad for a dating agency on a US university website…

    If anything I think I may have saved them from serious embarassment.

  5. I’m not sure to which site you’re referring. This was a single page within the University site, not the whole site. I didn’t specify a page, so how would you have been able to check. More to the point, I spoke to a contact at the U who checked it out and asked the owner of the page to remove the ads, which they did. I don’t get what it was about my post that was insulting though. The academic page in question was hosting an annoying pop-up ad network showing ads for dating agencies and gambling sites, and Xboxes and stuff. Surely that’s more insulting to readers than someone highlighting the fact that they’re doing so?

    PS I tried to email you direct but your email address bounced, did you mistype it when you posted your comment?

  6. I don’t see any popups on the site?? Maybe it is something on your computers? Spybot and Adaware don’t catch everything you know. You might want to consider that before you make such an insulting post. *Just a voice of reason.*

  7. Pop-ups are a pretty low thing to do no matter what kind of website you are running. I stick to adsense and it seems to do okay as long as traffic levels are kept above > 2000 uniques a day, although my needs are mainly extra beer money.


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