Hotlink Alarm: eBay Thief Prompts Entrepreneurs To Create New Software To Detect Hotlinking In Progress

February 19, 2008


Willie Crawford
Will Bontrager
Patrick Pretty

eBay Thief Sparks Software To Detect Hotlinking And Digital Piracy: HotlinkAlarm Battles Online Theft

Navarre, Florida (February 19, 2008) — Very few online merchants have the depth of experience of Willie Crawford.

Crawford, a retired Air Force major and graduate of the University of North Carolina, turned to the Internet in 1996 and has become an international success story.

And yet Crawford caught himself scratching his head in October 2007.

An eBook he had co-authored with several members of The Internet Marketing Inner Circle was "hijacked by a hotlinker" and offered for sale on eBay though an illegal auction, Crawford said.

Patrick Pretty, a co-author of "20 Ways To Make $100 Per Day Online," was equally caught of guard.

"I'll never forget that day," said Patrick Pretty, a branding specialist who created the Patrick Pretty line of digital information products. "It was the day that the dangers of hotlinking struck close to home, hitting us right in the pocketbook."

Will Bontrager, a software programmer since 1980 and fellow member of The Internet Marketing Inner Circle, said malicious hotlinking is a significant problem online.

"Many people don't even know what hotlinking is, let alone knowing how to detect it," Bontrager said.

Bontrager went to work immediately after the theft of The Inner Circle eBook to develop software that not only would detect hotlinking, but also would notify users instantly via email that their intellectual property such as website graphics and digital product files were at risk.

Willie Crawford and Patrick Pretty joined with Will Bontrager to develop, test and market the software, and a new product was born. HotlinkAlarm V. 1.0 was released for distribution on January 15, 2008, after both alpha- and beta-tasting phases. Only January 31, the development team released V. 1.1, which added even more dynamic capabilities.

"Hotlink Alarm spots where hotlinking is occurring and lets users know," Bontrager says.

If a website image is being hotlinked, Bontrager said, "Hotlink Alarm replaces the image on the hotlinker's website site with an image of the user's choice."

Crawford said hotlinking and digital piracy plague legitimate businesses.

"It can be audacious," he said, pointing to cases in which his own digital property had been targeted by hotlinkers and used in ways never intended.

Patrick Pretty said companies should be proactive in protecting their digital property.

"Not only are profits at stake, but reputations are at stake as well," he said. "Recently our users have reported a pattern in which digital logos from legitimate businesses have been targeted and placed on Blogs to create the impression that the Blogs were legitimate.

"Those Blogs were delivering malware," he said.

Crawford recommended that people interested in the topic of hotlinking read a recent Hotlink Alarm Case Study.

"It's a real eye-opener on the dangers of hotlinking and how legitimate businesses suddenly can find themselves confronting public-relations problems through no fault of their own."


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