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Botnet Ad Fraud Will Net Criminals $7.2 Billion in 2016

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Samburaj Das

Samburaj Das

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.


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Botnet Ad Fraud Will Net Criminals $7.2 Billion in 2016

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This article was posted on Thursday, 22:20, UTC.

Ad-clicking swarms of computers in their botnets are clicking online ads and faking traffic, enough to the tune of an expected $7.62 billion this year, a study revealed.

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Here’s a scam that’s seldom heard of. A study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) along with White Ops, a security vendor has revealed that scamming botnets will see advertisers cough up an incredible $7.2 billion this year.

The global advertising market, according to the previous ANA/White Ops study stood at approximately $40 billion spent on display ads and an estimated $8.3 billion spent on video ads.

A press release revealed the estimated figure of $7.2 billion is up from a collective loss of $6.3 billion toward fake traffic generating bots last year. The increased estimate is drawn from an expected 15 percent increase in digital ad budgets by marketers this year.

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In statements, ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice said:

The level of criminal, non-human traffic literally robbing marketers’ brand-building investments is a travesty.

The overall rate of fraud has remained steady with increasing ad budgets, with 2015 seeing a rise in bot percentages among advertisers. The year saw a total of 49 advertisers polled in the study, compared to 36 in 2014 and the numbers make for interesting reading.

All participants polled deployed detection tags developed by White Ops in order to gauge bot fraud. Altogether, data was collected across 1,300 ad campaigns over 61 days between August and September, resulting in 10 billion online advertising impressions.

Those polled revealed bot percentages between 3 and 37 percent, compared to 2 and 22 percent in 2014, signaling an increase along with the rise in ad budgets. Sourced traffic, or traffic that is acquired through third parties contribute to greater fraud. Unsurprisingly, sourcing traffic sees more than three times the bot percentage than the overall study average.

Predictably, media with higher cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) were and are more vulnerable to bots. Display media that reward over $10 for CPMs had nearly 40 percent higher bot infestation than lower CPM media. Video media with CPMs over $15 had a soaring 173 higher bot rate than lower CPM video media.

Similarly, demographically positioned campaigns typically resulted in higher bot percentages. For instance, programming buys targeting Hispanic demographics were nearly twice as likely to see bot traffic than media for a general audience, the study revealed.

Some of the measures suggested by the study to combat ad-fraud included the use of third-party monitoring tools on a consistent basis to monitor all traffic. Additional suggestions include using ‘language on non-human traffic’ among the terms and conditions and the suggestion that advertisers do not pay for fraudulent impressions.

White OPS CEO Michael Tiffany said the following with regards to ad-fraud and cybersecurity, as a whole:

In problems of security and fraud, the attacker’s advantage of only needing to find one weakness in a defense is well understood. We are still facing an uphill battle to achieve broad acceptance of the need for deeper focus on the fraud problem and ultimately to reverse these financial trends.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Samburaj Das

Samburaj Das

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.

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