The crusade against click laundering
Microsoft’s crusade against click laundering is relevant to nearly all big or small businesses connected to the online world. Click laundering is a technique that makes a bogus click on an online ad to look legitimate in order to defraud a pay- per- click advertising system.
According to a report by Microsoft investigators’ on the emerging forms of click fraud, “Click laundering is a newly uncovered form of online fraud in which technical measures are used to invalid ad clicks appear to originate from legitimate sources. It is analogous to money laundering in which the origin of illegal profits is disguised as legitimate.
“Click laundering attempts to avoid fraud detection systems that have been put in place by the ad platform - in this case, Microsoft adcenter - to protect online advertisers. Through various means, including malware programs, fraudsters are able to trick innocent Internet users into visiting websites where they unknowingly click on advertisements. Click launderers can also further disguise the origin of those invalid clicks by using scripts and other methods to alter information that is sent to the ad platform.”
The filing of lawsuits by Microsoft against people employing the technique came with the allegations that defendants used botnets and other techniques to drive traffic to their own servers, where they scraped out the trafficreferring information and replaced it with code that made it look like the traffic came directly to their sites. A botnet is a network of malicious computers formed by criminals for infecting large number of computers without the users actually knowing it. Criminals use botnets to send out spam email messages, spread viruses, attack computers and servers, and commit other kinds of crime and fraud.
In one of the lawsuits filed by Microsoft, Redorbit was accused to manufacture large numbers of bogus clicks on shady sites known as parked domains — web sites that are legal but exist only to display ads. In this case, many of the ads were invisible to the naked eye. Then, using a technical sleight of hand, it submitted the clicks to Microsoft in a way that made them appear to have occurred on Redorbit’s own site – a requirement for getting paid.
Online advertising fuels much of the Internet activity we enjoy today, enabling free services and unprecedented content flows. This marketplace, in order to continue enabling rich online experiences, needs to be based on a trusted platform. Advertisers need to have confidence that they are getting what they pay for.
While, click fraud has been a scourge since the dawn of online advertising, dishonest website operators have pumped up ad revenues by generating online traffic in the absence of an actual interested buyer for the product or service being advertised. To counter this, big ad network operators such as Google ( GOOG) and Microsoft ( MSFT) have developed fraud detection systems to weed out useless clicks, so the confidence of advertisers in their systems can be maintained though online cheating strategies keep becoming more sophisticated.
Microsoft and other ad platform providers invest in techniques and tools to identify click fraud when it occurs. The filed lawsuits aimed to help protect the ad platform, to promote the integrity of online advertising for the benefit of legitimate advertisers, to stop the fraudulent behavior and to recover the damages caused by click laundering