The Internet is a dangerous place. Sure there are LOL cats, epic fails and the occasional groundbreaking whistleblower, but there is also the darker side of the Internet. To prove my point, not even the people who make lots of cash online, such as advertisers, can escape from the wrath of criminals.
Advertising software firm TubeMogul has recently uncovered a botnet fraud ring, which may be generating upwards of $10 million a month in fraudulent video views. The criminals are preying on advertisers such as electronics giant, Samsung and automobile manufacturer, Nissan.
Just like a traditional click-fraud network, this botnet works by hijacking computers with malware and then using them to generate false traffic for websites. That sound like a ‘normal’ scam, right? But this network is far more complicated. It uses trickery to make a single computer generate traffic, which appears to come from thousands of different users. This network also targets ad cookie networks and visits other sites to establish an advertiser-friendly background for the counterfeit traffic.
TubeMogul has published a list of nearly 200 sites that were making cash from the botnet. Nearly all of these had inoffensive names such as ModernCommerce.com or AllSportsHub.com. Together, they add up to millions of false video views, often these are from major brands. As one TubeMogul analyst put it, “people are buying traffic they don’t know is bots.”
The team at TubeMogul still has not been able to ascertain who is behind the botnet, since the ring was careful to conceal its tracks. TubeMogul expect advertisers to stay well away from the sites, now that the fraud has been uncovered.
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[Image via onyxdigital]