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YouTube has an ad malware problem – here’s how to avoid it

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By Kate Knibbs

Provided by

Sitting through 30 seconds of grating ads to watch a clip of a possum snowboarding is bad enough, but now there’s another YouTube ad annoyance to contend with: Sambreel, a notorious “ad hijacker,” has returned to make YouTube ads even more of a nuisance.

According to a report from Spider.io, a research team that uncovers shady business online, 3.5 million Internet users have downloaded plug-ins that run Sambreel’s adware.

This means that these users see ads that Sambreel puts up instead of the ads that YouTube runs, so it’s bad for brands that pay to advertise on YouTube. The adware also inserts Sambreel’s ads into the white space on the YouTube page, making it even more crowded for users unlucky enough to accidentally download the plug-in.

Sambreel works by convincing users to download plug-ins that run adware. The company has formerly set up plug-ins for the New York Times and Facebook, and now it’s using a number of shell businesses to run a similar scheme on YouTube.

Sambreel takes advantage of people who search for how to download YouTube videos by planting links that encourage people to download plug-ins called Easy YouTube Video Downloader and Best Video Downloader. Once people download the plug-in, the unsanctioned ads begin. Spider identified both plug-ins as part of a browser tool suite provided by companies called Yontoo and Alactro – which are actually just subsidiaries of Sambreel.

If you want to avoid falling prey to Sambreel’s underhanded tactics, there’s just one thing you need to do: Don’t search for “how to download YouTube videos” – or if you do, don’t install either of the plug-ins mentioned.

AdWeek collected images to demonstrate what the sneaky Sambreel ads look like – you might not notice that something’s funky, since they look a lot like Google Ads. If Sambreel just ran innocuous ads over the Google ads, it’d be more of a problem for advertisers than users, but Sambreel doesn’t just give its ad space to legitimate operations – it doesn’t have the same vetting process as Google. So it allows malware peddlers use the space to try to reach new victims. And the plug-ins themselves can slow down your computer.

Until Google finds a way to put the kibosh on Sambreel’s devious adware, the problem will persist as long as people keep installing plug-ins that let them download their YouTube videos. Facebook successfully shut down the company’s attempts to ad hijack in 2012, so Google may be able to pursue a similar course of action.

So to make sure you don’t get Sambreel’d, steer clear of avoiding any of these programs, especially the two confirmed tools that inject adware. And if you’ve already downloaded these plug-ins, uninstall them as you would any other plug-in to get rid of the adware program.

This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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