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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mitt's malware

There's an interesting story up about Romney's reliance on a little-known scheme to avoid inheritance taxes...
In January 1999, a trust set up by Mitt Romney for his children and grandchildren reaped a 1,000 percent return on the sale of shares in Internet advertising firm DoubleClick Inc.

If Romney had given the cash directly, he could have owed a gift tax at a rate as high as 55 percent. He avoided gift and estate taxes by using a type of generation-skipping trust known to tax planners by the nickname: “I Dig It.”

The sale of DoubleClick shares received before the company went public, detailed in previously unreported securities filings reviewed by Bloomberg News, sheds new light on Romney’s estate planning -- the art of leaving assets for heirs while avoiding taxes. The Republican presidential candidate used a trust considered one of the most effective techniques for the wealthy to bypass estate and gift taxes. The Obama administration proposed cracking down on the tax benefits in February.
This piece is of interest for a number of reasons. Here's one that the Bloomberg writer neglects to mention: DoubleClick is often considered a conveyer of malware. From Wikipedia:
DoubleClick is often linked with the controversy over spyware because browser HTTP cookies are set to track users as they travel from website to website and record which commercial advertisements they view and select while browsing.[7]

DoubleClick has also been criticized for misleading users by offering an opt-out option that is insufficiently effective. According to a San Francisco IT consulting group, although the opt-out option affects cookies, DoubleClick does not allow users to opt out of IP address-based tracking.[8]

DoubleClick with MSN were shown serving malware via drive-by download exploits by a group of attackers for some time in December 2010.
There's more (from 2009):
Google's DoubleClick ad network has once again been caught distributing malicious banner displays, this time on the home page of eWeek.
Unsuspecting end users who browse the Ziff Davis Enterprise Holdings-owned site were presented with malvertisements with invisible iframes that redirect them to attack websites, according to researchers at Websense. The redirects use one of two methods to infect users with malware, including rogue anti-virus software.
On that occasion, a PDF file contained JavaScript which put a virus into your temp folder. (Betcha didn't know PDFs could do that...)

DoubleClick has always insisted that, on such occasions, its service was hijacked by malicious outsiders. On the other hand, Spybot and other cleaners treat everything DoubleClick as a type of threat.
I'm confused, Joseph.

How is malware distributed by DoubleClick after it was bought by Google in 2008 somehow "Mitt's malware" when (according to the Bloomberg article you cited):

1) Bain never owned more than 17.7% of the company, and
2) that stake was liquidated a *decade* before said malware was distributed?

Isn't it more reasonable to think of it as "Larry's malware" or "Sergey's malware"?

You make a fair point, Prop. But I think that if we allow some elasticity of definition, we can say that DoubleClick was always adware, thus malware. Lots of people treat it that way...

Personally, I've killed DoubleClick every time I've seen it on any system I've owned.
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