Adwords for P2P, Advertising Opportunity or Spamming Tool?

This year, several companies launched advertising programs targeted at the millions of users of Limewire and other Gnutella or eD2k based filesharing applications. The boundary between advertisement and plain old spam is completely disappearing, especially with the recently launched service 'PeerMatrix'.

peermatrix malwareFilesharing networks are still gaining popularity, and with millions of active users these networks are interesting venues for spammers and scammers. Recently, Gnutella and eD2k based applications, such as Limewire, Frostwire and eMule have been confronted with a new type of gold diggers – keyword ‘advertisers’.

In the past we’ve reported on the P2P advertising attempts of MediaDefender, but they are not the only company trying to make money from ads on filesharing networks. Last month, P2Pwords launched their adwords service, and more recently, PeerMatrix launched another advertising application targeted at P2P users. Although there is doubt that this type of advertising can be very effective, it’s the ideal cash cow for malware peddlers.

According to a press release from last Friday, PeerMatrix uses a “…revolutionary technology that morphs the name of an ad file to match whatever a P2P user is searching for, thereby dramatically increasing the probability that your ad file will be downloaded and viewed”.

In other words, with this (patented) “revolutionary technology” advertisers will have the possibility to rename their Viagra advert to ‘The Dark Knight Trailer.avi’, if that’s what the user is searching for. Even worse, the advertiser can do this with every file type, including executable malware applications, or trojan horses. The opportunities to use this piece of software to pollute search results are endless.

Angel Leon, lead developer at FrostWire told TorrentFreak that he is not impressed by PeerMatrix’s marketing pitch. Instead, he is worried. “We wouldn’t call this a “revolutionary technology,” he told us. “This is nothing but good old fake search results, otherwise known as spam, and it’s always been in the interest of the community to remove these results.”

PeerMatrix offers their application for free, and it runs on all recent Windows operating systems including Vista and XP. PeerMatrix’s business model is to make money by inserting a small percentage of their own ads along with the files that the ‘advertisers’ choose to spread.

We can’t help but see this application as the ultimate spamming tool. Luckily, most developers of Gnutella based filesharing applications agree with this view. “We’ll try our best to have FrostWire clients recognize these fakes and keep the experience clean, just the way it should be. If a search result doesn’t indicate in some way it’s an advertisement, it’s clearly a deceptive form of spam,” Leon said.

Bernard Trest, President of PeerMatrix disagrees with this description. “YouTube has also been experimenting with overlays and many websites use a similar overlay concept,” he told us. “Essentially the person does not request ads on YouTube however they are forced to view the ad anyhow. If what we are doing is “spam” then Google, Yahoo, and even YouTube are spamming.”

The problem with PeerMatrix, however, is that there is no control over the content that the advertisers put on the P2P networks, even executable files are not a problem. In addition, Trest admitted to us that the ads inserted by their software are not listed as ads in the search results. “The advertising, whether targeted or untargeted, is not designated as advertising,” he said.

If this isn’t the ultimate spamming tool, then what is? We sincerely hope that the developers of filesharing applications will keep a close eye on this new spamming tool, and filter it from the results wherever possible. If that proves to be a problem, many P2P users might have to switch to BitTorrent.

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