back to article Virgin hijacks empty pages

Virgin broadband has started serving up advertising, instead of empty pages, when the domain you were looking for turns out not to be there. Users of Virgin's Broadband service have started seeing Virgin's "Advanced Network Error Search" instead of the traditional Server Not Found error when they enter a URL that doesn't exist. …

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Anonymous Coward

Yay! Lawsuits and champagne all round!

Surely if you mis-type the URL for a company and get an ad for rival, that's a scenario for long costly and pointless litigation by corporations who feel their trademark has been infringed. After all, if fat-fingered people try to type Nokia's URL, mess it up, and get redirected to Samsung then Nokia may have a case for passing off or trademark infringement or something to waste everybody's time and money in court. Enterprising lawyers have already sued Google over something similar but even more meritless:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/10/google-profitin/

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Click all of the adverts...

But buy nothing!!!!

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who cares

1: It's trivial to opt out and the opt-out uses the (presumably MAC) address of your modem as an identifier - you opt out the modem your whole home network is opted out; a much better opt out than cookies... read the blurb on the VM website.

2: VMs DNS servers have been shit for a while - I deliberately opted for OpenDNS, which does exactly the same ad displaying, for the improved responsiveness.

3: AFAIK, as far as Virgin are concerned, this only affects Virgin Media NOT their NTL business arm. VM is a service for home users, bit of YouTube, bit of WoW, email and eBay - and so long as VM are only hijacking 404s rather than say 502s I can't see this having a massive negative effect on home internet usage.

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Solution: Use OpenDNS

Yes, OpenDNS does exactly the same thing, the difference is if you use OpenDNS then you requested that rather than had it foisted upon you.

It also means your ISP which you're already paying a monthly charge to isn't milking more money out of you but this time without your permission through ad revenue.

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Rephorm

Has Kent Ertugrul got a job with VM now, then? I imagine he's been looking for work...

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What ammuses me is....

.....The first advert is for VM broadband. WTF??? The user is already saddled with VM broadband if they are seeing this. What's more, the user will be reminded of the crappy deal their stuck with and have to look at the latest offers for new customers only!!

Ah well, if the user is still using IE6 then this is the least of their problems....

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FAIL

less than perfect..

I was surprised to see this appear on my housemate's computer, on the cusp of a tirade, I first checked on my own computer. I still get the firefox "server not found" error. We're still "opted in" according to the virgin page.. I'm just that awesome.

For all you talking about 404 errors, 404 is when a file or directory is not found on a server, but a 404 error is something returned by a server, so if the server isn't there, you can't get a 404.

Another thing, there's no point in saying this either, because you won't read it but how many comments have said the same thing about tiscali/orange? It's a bit ironic that you're all telling El Reg that they missed out on previous stories of this nature.. but some of you missed out on previous comments, right here in front of your eyes, saying the same thing.

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Happy

Calm down dear...

...it's just a commercial.

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Pain in the posterior

The most irritating thing about this sort of nonsense is that the URL bar changes so I can't simply edit my typo and hit enter.

As someone else pointed out, it has been done here before and it was dropped. Hopefully Virgin will get the message and stop mucking about.

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Silver badge

Bah!

Yes adverts on web page = bad. Such adverts mind-control anyone seeing them to buy stuff they never wanted in the first place.

I, for example, now find myself inexplicably craving a Blackberry Curve 8520 when only two minutes before I was unaware of the rather self-indulgent model-naming conventions of RIM products, and am desperate to read several "white papers" on subjects I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever.

The Register should remove these insiduous mind-control adverts from their pages at once before someone gets hurt.

Then they can preach at Virgin for being evil.

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Silver badge

Hijacked by The Registry

So when people get a VM page instead of what they wanted, they'll assume that VM have hijacked their page. Anyone remember the fun and games with the Apache default screen on the Centos server a while back?

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Paris Hilton

@ VeriSign Site Finder

I remember this http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/09/16/all_your_web_typos/ like it was yesterday

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Troll

@ Dave 62

"I still get the firefox "server not found" error. "

Most people using Firefox see this error whether they are on virgin or not!

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Unhappy

Does this constitute a CLOUD virus I wonder?

As Virgin can control where I go unless I run my own DNS (can't be bothered - hosts does it nicely for me) it makes me think...

As Virgin (and others) are deliberately sending me somewhere I don't want to go they have 'infected' my computers with unwanted advertizing (aka Spam)

I wanted to go [nowhere], they sent me to [a spam page]

Whilst they have not downloaded anything onto my PCs they have changed the operation of my equipment without my prior consent or approval

A friend was, a few months ago, infected by one of those pretend virus removal packages (idiot). The thing wouldn't let me change DNS back to the proper setting as it wanted to hijack the real DNS to divert any attempt to get rid of it to more demands for money.

Is this not, in essence, a similar act, albeit on a more benign scale?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Simon Booth

Simon, VM are monitoring the comments on this and other boards. The address your test returns is NOT the VM "search" page, but is actually a VM customer PC address (in the Manchester region).

If you could report this issue on

http://www.virginmedia.com/myvirginmedia/advancederror/feedback.php

I can ensure you that it will be investigated and you will get a response.

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Anonymous Coward

Orange

As others have said, Orange have been doing this for ages.

I've uploaded a screenshot at http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/2419/orangeerror.jpg

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No sign of it on my VM (ex-NTL) connection

I have a VM (ex-NTL) broadband connection and I see no evidence that the advertised DNS servers (194.168.4.100 and 194.168.8.100) are doing any NXDOMAIN hijacking.

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Bronze badge
Flame

grrr

OK, have opted out, but this idea is fundamentally wrong. I wish the slimy admen would leave well alone with my private communications.

With this system you get the feeling that someone is always looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to make a mistake so they can sell you some snakeoil.

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FAIL

It only half works!

Odd - not all sites return the offending page; nws.bbc.co.uk did the standard browser page load error.

Also, adbocker plus seems to kill the adverts anyway; when I tried the myessex.com it showed some 'did you mean's but no links.

Aye well, 'tis allegedly turned off, now. And they have a very polite rude letter.

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Go

OpenDNS FTW

I know its been mentioned already but just adding my vote in :)

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I assume this is DNS based

EVERYONE should get their DNS directly from the root servers or run their own DNS server. It's becoming the only way to avoid censorship and interference with your connection.

Yet another reason to ditch Vermin Media too.

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FAIL

What about King Con?

ISP Karoo.co.uk of Kingston Communications have been doing this on their monopolised East Yorkshire internet connections for a couple of years now......

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Big Brother

www.nottheregister.co.uk

LOL i got directed to this advertising page

they clearly know the URL was ment for theregister.co.uk

perhaps you can claim your loss of earnings for their commercial redirection for profit scam....

----------------------------------------------------

http://www.geekinter.net/

GeekInter.Net - Free stuff for geeks

Ask if you dare free@,,,,

Greetings to El Reg.

(No I'm not an "enterprising company". Just me doing stuff for free.)

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/images/cm_images/donate/stonewall_grey.jpg

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Coat

VM loves both Google and Yahoo

"petard hoisting #

By Dennis Posted Tuesday 18th August 2009 10:20 GMT

Luckily I'm not a customer of Virgin Media.

But has anyone tried the trick of editing the hosts file and adding an entry

127.0.0.1 advancedsearch.virginmedia.com

Is there a real use for this web site or is just an adman's wet dream?

"

interestingly, their usual serch page is using Google powered http://www.virginmedia.com/search/

wereas that URL "advancedsearch.virginmedia.com" (entered in a blank web tab)

i didnt even realise existed or does it ?, i suspect its also being redirected to here

http://advancedsearch.virginmedia.com/subscribers/assist?url=advancedsearch.virginmedia.com

"search results powered by YAHOO!"

"Sorry! We could not find advancedsearch.virginmedia.com

It may be unavailable or may not exist. Try using the suggestions or related links below, or search again using our web search.

"

so their being nice to Yahoo getting your redirected searchs, and perhaps VM get some form of mony incentive into the bargin, being No2 in the uk consumer ISP market perhaps.

typing "advancedsearch" in the page Does still give you "This program cannot display the webpage" though, put a www. infont of it gets you the VM banded yahoo search too.

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Big Brother

did VM sell your redirected web page data clickstreams!

"Calm down dear... #

By tim 73 Posted Tuesday 18th August 2009 13:19 GMT

...it's just a commercial.

"

is it though, VM sales will probably be collecting the redirect data and Your response clicks to it, (if your not web tech with an add blocker installed), and selling that data and your sudo annonimised data flows on to Non UK 3rd partys.

and/or the credit reference agencys to add to your ever growing annon online wired and wireless mobile CRA profile, some day soon that data wil come back and make you pay a higher interest rate at the very least.

remember their current wall sitting on Phorm, or Bt's internal badged phorm pages servers being in reality phorm servers in the US and elsewere,

i may use them but i DONT trust them after all the fence sitting and stated intent to monitise My dataflow content property etc, and neather should you after you give this a little more thought than your mere "...it's just a commercial", and consider how it could effect you and your familys income and credit reference etc if you let them mission creap like this.

commercial jobswerth: ill just add one more item here, they will never notice as we have brainwashed them to accept almost anything without thinking and all we need do is give them a brand new official Virgin media web messageboard to go vent on and forget the real problem we exploit at every turn for the good of the company and the boardroom.

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Bronze badge

This is for humans

This is, lets face it, something that the average human user can understand. Google will suggest an alternative for an obvious typo.

And this is going to screw with a lot of machines.

But what happens if you mistype a server name in a non-http connection?

Maybe the answer for the people doing automatic stuff is to stop using http for querying domain names. Send the query for the IP address as if it is from an FTP client, and if it comes back OK, have the http start with that IP address, rather than a domain name. Or am I totally misunderstanding what goes on?

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Linux

Rogers in Canada has been doing for YEARS!

What are you guys so surprised about? The biggest telecom here in Canada has been placing these disgusting not found pages with their own advertising for YEARS!

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Paris Hilton

@Dave

Not every server will respond if an FTP client tries to connect, often because FTP isn't installed/enabled for security reasons.

Not to mention that fact that that shouldn't be necessary in the first place because ISPs shouldn't piss around with theur customers' connections.

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OpenDNS has ads, but you can turn them off

If you create a free account, and put in your external IP address (they provide an auto-update tool for those on dynamic IP providers) you can turn off the ads.

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I dont see a problem

I mean, sure we dont want this, but most normal users would find this useful, my dad for example finds this great!

Also if it gives them a bit more revenue it might keep them away from Phorm for a bit longer.

As for opt-out/opt-in, i think opt out gives users who are not techies the chance to use the service and us techies a way out.

I know that most people would not know how to opt-in to anything!

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WTF?

Virgin hijacks empty pages

and that opt out is not working at the moment

i am a virgin media customer, but when i tried to go to the link this article posted i was REDIRECTED to a page which said it did not recognise i was a virgin media customer, and to try again later

<https://my.virginmedia.com/advancederrorsearch/hitch;jsessionid=EAD4C783F0452A82CECBE118AE6FA175>

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Stop

OpenDNS? Why?

Can't see why someone would avoid domain hijacking by using a commercial service built on such hijacking.

Sensible people use

4.2.2.1

4.2.2.2

Those work properly, anywhere (they're routed to a nearby server so you don't end up crossing the atlantic to do DNS lookups) and also are a heck of a lot easier to remember.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Peter Ashworth

Peter, it sounds like you are a VM National (ADSL) customer. At present the new system is not rolled out to those customers.

ADSL customers will be able to opt out as soon as the system goes live on ADSL some time in the next month or two, but until then the opt out link will not work.

The optout system will return the message you saw if it is accessed from any non-VM Ip address as well.

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WTF?

Thanks for the reminder

Thank you for the reminder! I had almost forgotten to switch my dns back to http://www.opendns.com/. Since the brand changed to virginmedia the money grabbing & BT style tactics have begun. Try adding the word arse to a url and you are now greeted by adverts for sex toys etc! Great stuff virgin!

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Re: @Peter Ashworth

AC> "

ADSL customers will be able to opt out as soon as the system goes live on ADSL some time in the next month or two, but until then the opt out link will not work.

"

I noticed we weren't getting the advanced network search page on the day this was reported, but it has kicked in since.

It would be nice if they checked the user agent to see whether the page might actually be sent to a pair of human eyes, but since they don't I've disabled it.

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Alert

You CAN Opt-Out easily

At least they are giving you the damn option.

You can opt out here: https://my.virginmedia.com/advancederrorsearch/settings

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