Advertising and Computer Security Issues on TV Tropes:

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1 Fighteer26th Nov 2011 09:10:12 PM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
With Mod Hat On
We occasionally get reports of ads that trigger antivirus warnings or infect computers that are browsing the wiki. This FAQ is an attempt to consolidate all the information about such things into one thread. Please read the below before reporting any incidents.

This thread may also be used to report ads that violate our policies in other ways, such as being too "adult" or NSFW, automatically playing audio/video, etc.

The basics

  • TV Tropes, as a site, does not contain malware. We are a text-and-image wiki and it is impossible for someone editing the site to embed malware into the wiki itself.

  • 99.99% of the time, any suspected malware will be related to the wiki advertising.

  • TV Tropes does not control the ads that are displayed. We use third-party ad providers and we have only limited ability to control the format of the ads (things like the size and placement, whether we allow Flash or not, whether we allow audio or not, and so forth).

  • Just because you see a particular ad doesn't mean everyone else sees it. Ads are customized by the ad providers to your location (by IP address), the content of the page you're viewing, and your browsing profile, which is tracking data accumulated by third parties over the course of all your internet browsing.

  • Just because you get a malware warning or infection that seems related to an ad on TV Tropes does not necessarily mean that it is caused by one of our ads. Pre-existing malware on your computer can intercept ads and replace them with malicious ones.

What can be reported to our provider.

  • Ads containing malware, obviously.

  • Misbehaving ads, such as ones that load a pop-up or pop-under, or redirect your browser to another page.

  • "Adult" or NSFW ads. Scantily clad women alone may or may not qualify, depending on context, but we want this site to be work-safe.

  • Ads that automatically play audio — that is, the audio starts without you clicking on the ad first. Video ads are acceptable.

How to protect yourself.

  • First and foremost, maintain current, updated antivirus software, and keep your operating system and browser up to date with all patches offered by the software vendors. This includes Adobe Flash, Java, and other rich media plug-ins. Turn on your software's automatic updates if they are not already on and act immediately when prompted to install them.

  • Never click on pop-ups purporting to have detected a virus, offering to "tune up" your PC, or otherwise inducing you to click on a link that you were not expecting. Any genuine message of this nature would come from your antivirus software and not from a web page.

  • Be careful clicking on external links. These are identified with a small icon next to them. Example: Google. TV Tropes does not endorse or control the content of external links and you open them at your own risk.

  • Never respond to any email or web page that asks for personal or financial information, including passwords, unless you have verified its identity. No reputable company will ever ask you for your password(s), other than to log in.

  • You may choose to opt out of having tracking information collected by ad providers. This does not stop malware but helps you maintain your online privacy. See here for additional information.

  • TV Tropes requests that you do not use ad blocking software while visiting us, as this site depends on advertising revenue to operate. If you do run an ad blocker, please add to its exception list, or consider donating to the site to have certain ads removed.

What to do if you suspect a malicious ad.

  • Try to identify the source URL of the suspect ad (see below).

  • Identify the ad provider. Some ads have a small area that links to the ad provider's page (like Google or AOL). In other cases, you can tell from the referral URL or you can look it up in a search.

  • Go to the ad provider's contact/abuse page and fill out their form. Below are some links to common providers' abuse pages:

  • Scan your computer for viruses. If your antivirus software will not operate (many malicious programs attempt to disable your antivirus software), you can download a scanning tool on a known clean system and run it on your infected machine from a read-only CD-R or flash drive.

  • If you suspect that you've been tricked into divulging personal information to a phishing attempt or other fraud, change your passwords to affected sites immediately and contact your bank, credit card companies, and the credit bureaus to request a fraud alert.

  • Please note that TV Tropes cannot assist you with the specifics of maintaining your computer. That's your responsibility. You may request general help in the appropriate forums, but please don't post new threads in the forums dedicated to wiki operation (Wiki Talk, Frequently Asked Questions, etc.).

  • Sometimes, the wiki administration can get better results from the ad providers in dealing with malicious ads. If you can identify a malicious ad by referral URL, you can post the link in this thread, but please omit the "http" component so it doesn't create a hyperlink that someone might click on inadvertently.

Identifying the source of a Flash ad.

  • For Flash ads, it is typically impossible to identify the source or the URL by right-clicking. In these cases, you need to view the page source to identify the ad so we can report it.

  • In Internet Explorer, you can right-click in a blank or text area of any web page, and choose View Source from the context menu. Firefox also has this option. In Chrome, you can use the Inspect Element menu option, which interactively highlights the portion of the page whose code you are hovering over.

  • For Flash ads, there will be a "frame" element with a "src" parameter. These will be inside a parent frame with a "src" parameter containing "".

  • All we need to identify the ad is the "src" URL from that frame.

edited 13th Jul '15 9:49:02 AM by Fighteer

Okay, thank you.
3 0dd111th Dec 2011 12:52:29 AM from Nowhere Land
Just awesome like that
Well, regarding that last point you said, there's one that keeps recurring for me that triggers the Microsoft Smart Screen filter on my Internet Explorer. Here's what IE keeps saying:

Content on this website has been reported as unsafe
Hosted by:

We recommend that you do not continue to this website.

This website has been reported to Microsoft for containing threats to your computer that might reveal personal or financial information.

This website has been reported to contain the following threats: Malicious software threat: This site contains links to viruses or other software programs that can reveal personal information stored or typed on your computer to malicious persons.
Insert witty and clever quip here.

My page, as the database hates my handle.

My music.
4 Fighteer11th Dec 2011 08:30:58 AM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
According to this article, there should be a link on the SmartScreen filter report allowing you to report TV Tropes as a safe site.

However, I just tried loading in IE9 and checked its SmartScreen rating, and it reported no threats. That other site is definitely a malware site but a quick search revealed no useful information about it.

We have yet to get anyone reporting a site-related infection who can give us any details about where it came from. That's the only way any of these issues will get resolved.

edited 13th Dec '11 4:41:32 PM by Fighteer

5 arks13th Dec 2011 01:38:34 AM , Relationship Status: Mu
Boiled and Mashed
Here's one that set off my antivirus:|[end angle bracket]xmltree[slash. the actual punctuation mark refuses to show up on these forums.]kondar.class

edited 13th Dec '11 1:41:53 AM by arks

Video Game Census. Please contribute.
I've gotten The Windows XP Antivirus 2012 virus from the site thrice recently, but I wasn't able to pin it to a specific ad or address.

Avast!Antivirus blocked an attack on my computer the first time I went to the site's homepage after installing it. Unfortunately, I don't remember the address it gave. I'll see if I can look through logs to find it. If I do, I'll post it.
7 Zyffyr13th Dec 2011 03:31:12 PM from Portland, Oregon , Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
Address of the advertisement itself :

Warning message from my Antivirus :|>xmltreekondar.jar

I've had others, but I didn't think to get the info.

edited 13th Dec '11 3:32:42 PM by Zyffyr

Thanks. I've forwarded these to our ad provider to see what action we can get.
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

Update from the ad provider:

On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 11:50 AM, Bethany Patterson <> wrote:

Hi Eddie.

I did some digging in our Site Scout technology this morning and was able to confirm that the information you provided us was linked to an issue that we flagged and resolved yesterday morning. We found this issue coming through three different networks (Banner Connect, Meta Network, Redux Media) Monday night/Tuesday morning. This problem was stemming from a specific advertiser within App Nexus. We reached out internally to App Nexus yesterday morning and helped them remove the advertiser. We have not seen the issue on our end since it was resolved.

Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

10 Madrugada14th Dec 2011 10:08:21 AM , Relationship Status: In season
Hey, cool. An actual response from an actual person. Is that allowed?tongue

edited 14th Dec '11 10:09:21 AM by Madrugada

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
11 Nohbody14th Dec 2011 10:21:04 AM from Somewhere in Dixie , Relationship Status: Mu
"In distress", my ass.
'Tis the season, and all that, I guess. tongue
Maddy: It is allowed now that we have a service between us and Google. Google is not in the human-to-publisher support business in any way you might notice.

edited 14th Dec '11 10:32:21 AM by FastEddie

Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

Got one today a few minutes ago from|&gt;xmltree/kondar.class. At least that's the URL given by Avast.

Edit: There's some gibberish-text that doesn't display properly between "jar" and "xmltree". It's |>. Hopefully it doesn't affect the report Eddie.[down]

edited 14th Dec '11 5:58:59 PM by Darkaros

Thanks. Will report.
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

[up][up] That looks like what Avast blocked for me, too.

Mine also said that it had to do with "java" and "Email.Trojan," if that's any help.
16 Ramidel17th Dec 2011 08:28:30 PM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
As a related question:

Sometimes, when I right-click a flash ad, it grayscales the "Settings" option. How do I find that ad's URL?
Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
If you run Firefox or Chrome, install Firebug, then use the 'inspect element' feature.
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

I just caught the exploit, which Avast! blocked.

Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

Request from ad server folks:

Do you have any additional information about who saw it, where it served, what time of day, geographic location, advertiser name, ad size, ANYTHING else would be helpful
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

21 Zyffyr19th Dec 2011 06:10:38 PM from Portland, Oregon , Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
I just got the one from, URL of the ad was : Qc UQIGQ Bt QU 1 YBEGIH Xgc S Mjko Dg VCSVQE Fw FUQVMPR 1 Qg C 0 Ec Qycn Yld GB Rcf R 09 C Fxo NCF 4=

No clue on the content, as my AV blocked it. West Coast USA, ~2 minutes ago. Ad was served on the Excessive Categorization thread (Wiki Talk), top ad.
Técnico Electromecánico
Internet explorer has being activating site filtering script (xss)* to the add left side off forum now, the URL is:

ib. adnxs. com / if?enc=exSuR-F6h D 97 FK 5 H 4 Xq E Pw AAAOB Ru M 4_ exSuR-F6h D 97 FK 5 H 4 Xq EP 3 NZC Mib-9FcR1TLCvo0i0u9_u9OAAAAAJ2lCgA2AQAANgEAAAIAAABQTw0AkdgAAAEAAABVU0QAVVNEAKAAWAKdMQAARRIAAgQCAQUAAIIAoySR7wAAAAA.&udj=uf%28%27a%27%2C+35986%2C+1324351165%29%3Buf%28%27r%27%2C+872272%2C+1324351165%29%3B&cnd=!GCNPK Qjh2gs Q 0 J 41 GA Agkb EDMA A4ne MEQAR Itg J Qncsq WA Bglw Jo AHCEC Hg Cg AGM C4g B Ap ABA Zg B Aa AB Aag BALABA Lk Bex Su R-F6h D_BAXsUrkfheoQ_yQGkmZmZmZm5P9kBAAAAAAAA8D_gAQA.&ccd=! Aw Vl Kwjh2gs Q 0 J 41 GJ Gx Ay AE&vpid=47&referrer= htt p: // optimized-by.rubiconproject. com/ a/8777/ 14415/29991-9.html%3F&media_subtypes=1

Region South America (Argentina), no idea what it was about, time, around this hour.

edited 19th Dec '11 7:35:50 PM by Joaqs

Fantastic information. Will forward to ad provider.
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

Here's my timestamp (I took a screenshot):

7:39 PM Eastern Time (4:39 Pacific), on the Writer's Block forum. Pennsylvania, USA.
Ooh! That screen shot would be handy.
Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

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