July 10th, 2015
The online advertising industry is battling an ongoing fraud problem. Industry analysts estimate marketers waste millions of dollars a year buying Internet ads that aren’t delivered to real humans, but to hijacked computers known as “bots” instead.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Association of National Advertisers say fraud has the ability to seriously hamper the growth of the online ad market, if unresolved. The scale of the problem remains difficult to quantify.
Scammers create bots by infecting users’ computers with pieces of code known as malware, which is used to control users’ machines in the background, usually without their knowledge. Scammers use such malware to send armies of zombie computers to websites of their choosing, loading ads in the process that are never actually visible to real consumers.
To demonstrate exactly how bot traffic is created, ad fraud company Forensiq intentionally infected a computer of its own with malware, and figured out a way to expose and record what that malware was doing behind the scenes.
In 24 hours the single infected “bot” machine loaded thousands of webpages, and a total of 10,000 fraudulent banner and video ad impressions, Forensiq said. Those fraudulent ads included ones for major brands including Verizon, Chase, Toyota, Tide, Buick, Aleve, Citi, Comcast, Sprint, Ford, and numerous others.
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