Ad Age looks inside Google’s war on ad fraud
Ad Age had an opportunity to look inside the hood of Google’s war on ad fraud and the article is an eye opener for those who really have never looked into the dark places on the web. Although long, the article is well worth reading to the end. Ad Age – Inside Google’s secret war on fraud
To summarize – Google bought a young company called Spider.io in 2014. The company had 7 employees upon acquisition, but has bulked up to 100 under Google, with massive computing power added to the technology they brought to the advertising giant. As the article points out, as the leading provider of ad impressions, Google has the most to lose from identifying ad fraud, but is also in the best position to lead the fight against it. Google has decided that it cannot lead by keeping quiet, so they are beginning to open their doors by sharing some methodologies and intel with Ad Age.
As a former employee of a leading security company, I find the parallels between the ad fraud world and the hackers/phishers/spammers/fraudsters that traditional security companies battle to be very close. The writer found it “striking” that ad fraud is carried out through personal computers – this has ever been the methodology of spammers – to take control of large numbers of PCs through exploits, add them to the bot network and spam away.
According to the founder of Spider.io, Douglas de Jaeger, “Malware was once primarily used for banking fraud, but two-factor authentication severely reduced its popularity. Then the hackers moved to credit-card fraud, but security on that front is now so good that you can buy thousands of active credit-card records for a few dollars, because they are essentially worthless. Next up was Bitcoin mining…but that too became less profitable, leaving ad fraud as the most lucrative endeavor a cybercriminal can undertake today. We’re at a point now where malware is being used principally for ad fraud.” As the article stated “SCARY WORDS FOR AN ADVERTISING INDUSTRY ONLY STARTING TO GRASP THE PROBLEM.” Yes, yes, yes!
Since the beginning of the Internet, there has been a dark web. Years ago, I managed affiliate programs for a leading search engine and the fraudsters were there, along with the first spammers. The original producers of malware were hackers writing viruses. It all changed when organized crime and sophisticated programmers became involved. Defenses went up – endpoint security, spam filtering, web filtering, firewalls, encryption, etc. and the cybercriminals changed their tactics. As I have said before and will say again – criminals follow the money. The money is now in ad fraud in a very big way and it is easy money because the industry has been so innocent and defenseless.