The Hidden Threats Of Cookie Hijacking In Affiliate Marketing
Posted by Selins Jesse on January 24th, 2023
Cookie hijacking is the malicious practice of inserting an affiliate cookie with adware. Threat actors rely on web browser extensions and other software solutions to steal the clickable elements on ad publishers’ websites.
Cookie hijacking refers to the insertion of an affiliate cookie by distributing adware through browser extensions. It is a significant type of affiliate fraud that affects the popularity of your affiliate marketing campaigns.
In this process, the nefarious affiliates control the entire session on your affiliate’s website. The nefarious affiliates can also modify the stolen cookies. In cookie hijacking, malicious affiliates display unauthorized advertisements that can hurt your brand big time.
The best way to combat affiliate fraud is to recognize why fraud is occurring in the first place. While there are countless schemes that malicious affiliates can use, cookie hijacking is the most prominent one. Here are some hidden threats associated with cookie hijacking in affiliate marketing.
Overview of Cookies and Cookie Hijacking in Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing comprises cookies that are integral to its success. The concept of affiliate marketing is simple. You evolve as a reseller or an affiliate of an established company and promote their products. In exchange, the marketing team of the company will pay you a commission.
The key to success in affiliate marketing is to understand the working mechanism of cookies. Cookies refer to small amounts of data that download to the devices of your visitors. The primary function of cookies is to save the login credentials of your users.
They also authenticate the visitor when they browse the website in the future. While cookies are a good thing for your affiliates and visitors, there’s a strategy that’s not so good. It’s known as session cookie hijacking. Hijacking cookies may lead to losing commissions.
Given how cookie hijacking has increased in the last few years, it is essential to monitor your website traffic. When a user logs into a website or application, their browser knows that they are logging in. The server sets temporary cookies that help with affiliate marketing.
Without cookies, your visitors and users would have to log back in every time. It is a convenient process and increases the user experience of the website. But cookies are prone to hijacking. If a threat actor gains access to your users’ session IDs, they can steal their essential information.
The Working Mechanism of Cookie Hijacking in Affiliate Marketing
In affiliate marketing, cookie hijacking is one of the major types of threats. The last thing your marketing team wants is to fall prey to this malicious affiliate fraud type. The cookie hijacking tool used by threat actors can let them have unauthorized remote access to the cookies.
This tool sends the hijacked cookies to the threat actor. Malicious affiliates also execute cookie hijacking when they send your user's fake logins. The victim of the attack clicks these fake links that allow threat actors to steal cookies from the users’ browsers.
The malicious affiliate captures anything that the user types. The nefarious affiliate then places that cookie in their browser and acts as the user. Threat actors can also leverage unsecured data connections to invade your users’ privacy.
If the user is accessing your website through a compromised Wi-Fi connection, cookie hijacking can happen. Cookie hijacking occurs on the user side, and that’s why it is more dangerous. In most cases, cookie hijacking causes reputational damage.
Standard Methods for Cookie Hijacking
The primary requirement for cookie hijacking to take place is to access the cookies of your users’ browsers. By hijacking the web sessions of your users, they give rise to cookie hijacking.
The threat actors steal clickable elements like a call to action or blank spaces in this method. Whenever the user clicks on any hijacked component and makes a purchase, the affiliate earns a commission. But in this method, the malicious affiliate receives the commission of your marketing team’s legitimate affiliates.
Using Malware or Adware
Threat actors may use adware or malware, or a combination of both, to execute large-scale cookie hijacking. Adware and malware installed in the victim’s browser offer remote access to the threat actor. The malicious affiliates can navigate and manage the web activities of your users.
Malicious affiliates also leverage Cross-Site Scripting (CSS) to inject malicious software via a running code. These scripts appear on the browser of the users. Cookie hijacking is a severe type of affiliate fraud. To ensure the integrity of your affiliate campaigns, you should monitor the website traffic.
How do Virus Positive Technologies (VPT) Combat Cookie Hijacking?
VPT is your best option for session hijacking prevention. VPT relies on its data-driven publisher profiling and affiliate fraud detection solutions to monitor website traffic. In case of violations related to cookies, it will raise red flags.