Recently Google has been deciding to show ads for one of our services on websites serving “nulled” web software, which is paid web software being distributed illegal, possibly with security measures removed from it. That isn’t something we are interested in having our ads run on and we have excluded those websites from showing our ads. Today while looking into a hacked WordPress website that we were contacted about, we noticed that Google is handling the advertising for another such website, dlwordpress.com, where “nulled” WordPress themes and plugins are being distributed with malicious code in them.
At the top of the homepage are two ad blocks being served by Google (bordered in red):
The website (and the others that had included our ads) seems to pretty clearly be in violation of Google’s AdSense programs policy related to copyright material:
AdSense publishers may not display Google ads on pages with content protected by copyright law unless they have the necessary legal rights to display that content. This includes pages that display copyrighted material, pages hosting copyrighted files, or pages that provide links driving traffic to pages that contain copyrighted material.
The malicious code being reported to be served with the software at that website would seem to cause the website to violate a couple of their content guidelines as well:
- Software or other content that violates the Unwanted Software Policy
- Malware or adware
It doesn’t seem like it would be hard for Google to detect that these websites are engaged in the activity they are, so it seems if they didn’t want them to be in their advertising program they already could be excluded. We have been reporting the ones that have been showing our ads, though.
dlwordpress.com Warns About Similar Websites Distributing Files Containing Viruses
While the website prominently links to a page for filing DMCA takedowns for copyrighted content on the website, the website is promoting that it actually is involved in placing such content on their website, which would seem to remove the safe harbor protection that DMCA provides for websites:
While a WordPress theme’s (or a plugin’s) code would need to be licensed under the GPL and therefore can be legally distributed to others after being purchased, other assets included with them would not.
On the “Submit Your Theme or Plugin” page, they pretty clearly are requesting content that they know wouldn’t be legal for them to distribute. But more striking is that they ask people submitting themes and plugins to not submit them from other similar sites because they “can share files with viruses”:
Google isn’t the only legitimate company involved with this website, as when we went to check to see where the website’s server was located we found that it is being served through Cloudflare.
A couple of months ago we found them doing the same for a website being used as part of a hack to compromise credit card credentials.