What is Clickbait? How Does Clickbait Track Me?

Let’s learn about Click Bait Systems!

Why? Because if you don’t, you can be lied to and hacked. As some of you may know I do security consulting and training for a living. So, here is some free advice.

What is Click Bait?

Click Bait Systems are a number of competing and co-operating internet web sites that are solely interested in generating clicks from anyone they can attract to their site(s) in any way. They have NO concern about content, lies, satire as news, or any information that they publish. All they care about is how many clicks their site generates. (And no; CNN and MSNBC are not click bait sites though they do often have links through advertisers that are.)

What Happens If I Click on a Click Bait Site?

Once you land on a Click Bait System, your browser is given a cookie. The cookie is used in a number of ways to TRACK YOUR BROWSING to other click-bait systems, ads, and so on. This system then builds a profile if you. It likely does not know your name, but it does know a great deal about you, such as where you go in their network of systems, how long you stay, where you go from there, what operating systems you use, the times of day and week you are active online and much more. This information is then sold to ANYONE who will pay for it. This generates money even though you have not clicked on any of their ads, just read their stories.

Typically the click-bait systems have a blogger or two (many have none and are just robots), and any content they provide is to just dramatize some other material.

Who Is Most Affected by Clickbait?

Ironically, some of the most avid click bait website readers are conspiracy theorists, science deniers and others looking for false truths wrapped up in a pretty lie. The reason this is ironic is that these people are being tracked and in fact are an active participant in the tracking system as they are the most likely to share the clickbait links on social media, messaging and email.

So those trying to ‘expose’ the conspiracy are actually the most active participants in making it happen. 

Who Buys Clickbait Tracking Information?

Who buys this tracking information? We don’t know. Anyone with bitcoins typically; inept marketers, hackers or anyone wanting to do social engineering.

What Do I Do If I Think I’ve Been Clickbait Tracked?

So the next time a naive friend on social media tags you in a click-bait post, you will want to clear your cookies afterward and perhaps even try to find a friendly yet informative way to let them know the difference between a legitimate news site and a republishing click-bait system. Sometimes we can help people sometimes we can’t but at least we have stepped up to our moral responsibility and tried to help our friends.

Learn how you and your fellow employees can avoid Social Engineering scams and have FUN doing it! Just send me an email or sign up for my Security Awareness class. [email protected]

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