Russian cy­ber­gang scored mil­lions in fake-ad scam

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

A Russian crim­i­nal group is run­ning a mas­sive fraud that has been si­phon­ing off mil­lions of dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing dol­lars a day for a cou­ple of months, a firm that spe­cial­izes in de­tect­ing on­line-ad fraud says. The scam may have cost brands, and po­ten­tially me­dia com­pa­nies, hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

The New York-based firm White Ops said in a re­port yes­ter­day that the "Meth­bot" scam made it ap­pear that hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, mostly in the US, were watch­ing real video ads from real com­pa­nies on more than 6,000 fake web­sites that mim­icked well­known pub­lish­ers, in­clud­ing CNN, ESPN, Vogue and The New York Times. No­body was ac­tu­ally watch­ing.

The crim­i­nal ring's gains come out of the pock­ets of com­pa­nies pay­ing for dig­i­tal ads and also, po­ten­tially, of the web­sites that could have hosted those ads. White Ops Pres­i­dent Ed­die Schwartz said he can't put a to­tal value on the amount the Russian group has stolen, be­cause it's not clear when the scam be­gan. But the firm es­ti­mates that the scam­mers were get­ting $3 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion per day since roughly early Oc­to­ber, and the fraud is still go­ing on.

The rev­e­la­tion of the fraud and on­go­ing anx­i­ety about where ad dol­lars are go­ing could make it harder for le­git­i­mate web pub­lish­ers to make money from ads if brands be­come more sus­pi­cious, said For­rester dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing ex­pert Su­san Bidel. "It's the ad­ver­tiser's money that's be­ing stolen, it's the pub­lisher's rep­u­ta­tion. It pun­ishes all of pub­lish­ing," she said.

Brands need to in­sist that ad­ver­tis­ingtech­nol­ogy plat­forms and ad agen­cies show them ex­actly what they are pay­ing for - where ads end up, Bidel said. Right now, that's dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine be­cause of the num­ber of com­pa­nies and net­works in­volved in au­to­mat­i­cally plac­ing dig­i­tal ads on sites that have ad holes to fill.

Fraud has long been a prob­lem in the roughly $187 bil­lion global dig­i­tal-ad market. White Ops, which sells anti-fraud soft­ware to ad agen­cies and other ad­ver­tis­ing play­ers, es­ti­mated in Jan­uary that "bot" ad fraud would amount to $7 bil­lion glob­ally this year. The com­pany will put out a 2017 es­ti­mate in May. Meth­bot is "a novel, new ap­proach" to dig­i­tal-ad fraud that seem­ingly al­lowed the scam­mers to go un­de­tected for longer and make more money, said Cameron Camp, a re­searcher for IT se­cu­rity firm ESET.—AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.