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13 January

In December of 2016, a cybersecurity firm called White Ops announced that Russian cybercriminals had built a new high-tech ad fraud enterprise. The scheme involved showing real ads to fake people, and to date, has syphoned over $180 million from the online advertising industry.

This highly sophisticated bot farm operation is called “Methbot,” and according to White Ops COO, Eddie Schwartz, “This is a very advanced cyber operation on a scale no one’s seen before.”

The way this operation works is that companies pay millions of dollars to place costly video ads. They would deliver the ads to what appeared to be major websites. In actuality, the bad guys had created over a quarter-million counterfeit websites that no real people ever visited. This gave them the ability to generate up to 300 million fake “video impressions” every day. They acquired over 500,000 blocks of IP addresses and configured each of them to appear to be a legitimate business.

The criminals then built software that mimicked real site visitors web surfing during the day, and clicking on the ads placed by the victims of the scheme, earning the wrongdoers a whopping $5,000,000 per day!

White Ops CEO, Michael Tiffany, said, “The Methbot is a beautiful simulacrum of a real browser. It’s gotten better over time. And by better, I mean, a more perfect lifelike copy.”

Genius Monkey CRO, Jeremy Hudgens, stated, “This kind of cybercrime is nothing new to Genius Monkey. There are lots of bot farms out there; this one just happens to be the biggest ever reported. We have been successfully battling ad fraud since 2009 - long before the ‘Methbot’ was discovered. And from the beginning, one of our top priorities has been to help our clients evade the reaches of this specialized criminal activity.”

Automated “bot” software programs like the Methbot are designed to mimic the activities of human browsers. They can drive large amounts of traffic to websites, and can actually scroll through the site and click on links … just like a real person would. The bots act as the primary vehicle for ad fraud, and infect a wide range of advertisers, wasting billions of dollars every year.

In 2015, businesses reported that bots represented 3-37% of the impressions for their ads. That is a definite increase from the previous year, but not as profound as the 2016 stats, which are projected to cause a loss of $7.2 billion to advertisers.

When asked about Genius Monkey’s success in battling ad fraud, Ethington stated, “We recently completed a 10-month study with a third-party company called zvelo, which revealed that we are stopping 130% more ad fraud than any of our competitors.” Ethington concluded by saying, “At Genius Monkey, we respect the danger that ad fraud presents, but we don’t fear it. A great deal of time and research must be expended to come up with a winning formula for battling ad fraud, and after the recent evaluation of our effectiveness, I’d say we have done just that!”

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