Ad fraud can cost billions

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James Pavett

Online ads make billions per year but increasingly we are seeing ads used as a platform for malicious attacks.

Ad fraud is one of the reasons there are negative connotations with online adverts; it is not to be confused with malvertising, which infects users with malware once clicked.

Ad fraud, however, occurs in pay-per-click online advertising, when a criminal imitates legitimate users clicking on adverts with no interest in the product at all.

The main beneficiary of Ad fraud is the website that is hosting the ad, and costs advertisers billions in adverts that are never seen by real people.

Ad fraud is mostly common in computers that have already been compromised with malware, which can then mimic real human activity, and defraud millions of ad impressions a day.

It has been known for criminals to target data centres to create ‘bot farms’, where they can target hundreds of computers under one server, rather than a single consumer.

Mark James, ESET IT Security Specialist, discusses the malicious activity of Ad fraud and how to protect yourself against being targeted.

“Ad fraud affects everyone.

“It encourages malicious activity on our devices connected to the internet and opens up the avenue for further abuse through malware.

It’s a means to generate money and lots of it.

“Ads are also seen by many of the public as annoying or intrusive, but can, for some, be the only way to fund their website.

“For the criminals making sure their ads are not detected, and where possible only being clicked by humans is very important.

“Ad companies can do many things to verify their contributors are legit, these may include, but are not limited to, white and blacklisted vendors along with analysing data received back from campaigns.

“For the user, avoiding ad fraud can be harder; making sure your internet security software is up to date and maintained regularly will help in notifying you of potential dodgy websites.

“Also, where possible use the latest operating systems and browsers, many companies want you to have a good browsing experience and will do all they can to ensure that happens.”


Do you block ads? If so, why? Let us know on Twitter @ESETUK


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