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NomadicFanatic.org and a little cyber sleuthing

January 26, 2016
Nomadic Fanatic

Update Feb 2016: right around the time that Eric announced that he registered the trademark “Nomadic Fanatic” this site went dark…

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One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to watch YouTube channels.  I have a number of favorites that I watch regularly.  One is Nomadic Fanatic (one of the most viewed RV channels on YouTube) about a Nomadic RV’r and his cat who have been travelling all over the US in an RV.

The other day I discovered a website nomadicfanatic.org which states right at the top that it is an “unofficial fan site”.  This site intrigued me as it was well laid out and all the content of the site was embedded from the official Nomadic Fanatic YouTube channel and there was absolutely no original content on the site, plus the written content was directly from the real Nomadic Fanatic channel, giving me a false impression that Eric (the real Nomadic Fanatic) was actually posting these words on this site.  The other nagging thing about the site however was the Amazon ads in it.  They appeared to be carefully tailored to products that Eric used, talked about, or endorsed.

nomadicfanatic

This started my brain wandering into the darker corners of the internet.  I did not think the owner of nomadicfanatic . org had done anything illegal, but I wondered about the ethics (but I am not a lawyer so what do I know).  This looked to me to be a case of someone using another persons hard work and original content to generate some sort of revenue off their brand.

So I decided to learn what I could about nomadicfanatic.org from publicly available information on the internet.  To do this I started by doing a WHOIS for nomadicfanatic . org.  I was not surprised to find out that he paid extra for his personal information to be private.  WHOIS is a phonebook for all Domain Names, listing their owners names, email, address etc.  Choosing it to be private is an additional cost and it is like having an unlisted phone number.

whois

Next I started pouring over the source code from his site.  Since the source code is easily readable from most browsers, it was easy to get access to this information.  After a few hours of digging I discovered a copyright in the code.  The copyright referenced a name HIGHASABIRDSASS with a url of highasabirdsass . com.  This was a lead.

source code

After doing some google searches and finding some bits and pieces but no real strong leads, I decided to switch to social networks for my searching.  The first site I tried was Twitter and I immediately found 1 result for highasabirdsass.  All that was on the twitter account was the copyright name I was looking for and an uncommonly spelled persons name.  This was another lead.

twitter account

After exhausting the highasabirdsass alias, I started searching social networking sites for the persons name instead of the copyright.  Luckily it was unique enough that no matter where I looked I found either no results or only one single result.

Linkedin came up with only one exact match for this name and it displayed an Employer and City.  Another lead.

linkedin account

Facebook also came up with another lead.  There was one person on Facebook with that name and the Facebook page was open enough to list all his likes.  I was not the least bit surprised to find out that one of his likes was the real Nomadic Fanatic.

facebook2

Next I went back to nomadicfanatic.org and started looking a little more closely at the Amazon advertisements.  I began to notice that when you clicked on the ads and arrived at the Amazon site, the URL had a unique identifier in it.  Note the link for the GoPro Hero4 on the site:

referral

It was an Amazon Affiliate link.  The Amazon Affiliate program is a program where someone can advertise products on their site.  When someone clicks on the link from the third party site the link goes to Amazon to buy it, the site owner gets a commission for referring the buyer to products. In this case, products the original content owner (not the site owner), who is a recognized celebrity with a large fanbase, used or endorsed.  In this scenario, the content owner does not participate in any way (and may not even be aware) does not receive any part of the commission.

This exercise taught me two very important lessons:

  1. There is a lot of public information on the internet that is just barely out of the eyes of the average person but if someone knows where to look, it very difficult to be anonymous on the internet.  There is a saying that I use in IT security: “Being 99% effective at hiding on the net is 0% effective”.
  2. It is possible to build a site with no original content and use a legitimate method of embedding another person’s YouTube content for the entire contents of the site, then embed ads based on the real content owners preferences and recommendations and then reap the benefit of the Advertisement Referrals for the products that the other person endorsed.

 

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From → RV Tech

4 Comments
  1. You’d make a great PI 😉 Nice work!

  2. Wow… I thought to have a .org site, it had to be nonprofit? Apparently not. But I’m going to look up Nomadic Fanatic on YouTube now…

  3. Kaybihik permalink

    Fascinating. Love this stuff!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Nomadic Fanatic Part 2 More Cyber Sleuthing | RV Tech with RVRob

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