Researcher claims AT&T injecting ads into free Wi-Fi hotspot connections

Researcher Jonathan Mayer documented AT&T injecting ads over HTTP connections on its free Wi-Fi hotspot.
Researcher Jonathan Mayer documented AT&T injecting ads over HTTP connections on its free Wi-Fi hotspot.

A researcher claims telecom company AT&T tampers with its free Wi-Fi hotspots to inject ads on peoples' devices.

The ad injection platform, RaGaPa, functions on webpages that load over HTTP. Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist and lawyer at Stanford, according to his website, reported that the hotspot added an advertising stylesheet when loading a page, then injected a backup advertisement in cases where JavaScript isn't supported. It ultimately added a pair of scripts for controlling advertisement loading and display.

The ad content apparently comes from third-party providers and is facilitated by RaGaPa. Mayer documented ads showing up on Stanford's website, the homepage of The Wall Street Journal and federal government websites.

Connections made over HTTPS will not display the ads, the researcher wrote.

UPDATE: AT&T responded to SCMagazine.com's request for comment. The company said it ran "advertising program" trials at both Washington Dulles International Airport, where Mayer conducted his research, and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. “The trial was part of an ongoing effort to explore alternate ways to deliver a free Wi-Fi service that is safe, secure and fast,"the statement says.
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