The latest ad fraud scandal to hit the digital advertising world has been exposed, and its name is Methbot.
A Russia-based botnet with data centers in the Netherlands and the United States, this digital-age criminal network deploys sophisticated tricks to defraud advertisers, brands and media companies.
Now that security firm White Ops has penetrated the operation and made its methods public, measures can be taken to prevent Methbot quietly siphoning off advertising dollars. But how did the fraudulent operation become so profitable, and what does its discovery mean for the digital advertising industry?
Methbot was extraordinarily successful because it appeared to provide something that is scarce within the digital ecosystem: large volumes of low-cost premium video inventory. Over 6,000 domains and 250,000 specific URLs were spoofed to trick advertisers into thinking they were buying video placements on premium publisher sites. Fake ad impressions were then generated on these domains using over 500,000 IP addresses.
With an estimated 200 to 300 million fraudulent impressions per day and average CPMs of $13.04, White Ops describes Methbot as “the single most profitable ad fraud operation to strike digital advertising to date.” Sophisticated measures used by the fraudsters to avoid detection include manipulation of geolocation data, countermeasures against code used by specific ad tech providers to filter out fraud, and exceptional bot imitation of human behavior such as social media logins and cursor movements.
The impact of Methbot varies across the industry, and the scam should act as a wake-up call to the industry as a whole. In addition to immediate actions that must be taken following the discovery — such as blocking impressions from the IP addresses identified by the operation — there are other more general steps the industry should take to protect itself from future threats.
Understand fraud impacts all channels
Ad fraud is often associated with display ads — but given that fraudulent activity follows advertising dollars, it’s no surprise its perpetrators are increasingly turning their attention to lucrative channels which offer higher returns, such as premium video.
Methbot also impacted inventory sold through private marketplaces (PMPs), which are widely thought to be less susceptible to fraud. One lesson to be learned from Methbot is that fraud exists across the entire ecosystem.
Employ robust anti-fraud measures
Using advanced anti-fraud technologies to detect and filter out fraudulent traffic before it becomes an issue should now be standard practice across the digital advertising industry. However, providers need to understand not just their own fraud prevention methods but also those of any partners they work with.
To learn from this episode and move forward, it’s vital to have a frank discussion with all partners over the impact of Methbot and to put safeguards in place to ensure such an operation can never be repeated.
Expect to pay for quality impressions
Methbot was so successful because buyers didn’t question the availability of cheap premium-video ad placements. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and “you get what you pay for” is a lesson many advertisers learned the hard way.
If advertisers want high-quality video ads to run on premium websites, they must be prepared to pay a fair price for each impression.
Increase industry transparency
The digital advertising ecosystem is plagued by complexity and opaque practices, with a multitude of tech providers acting as middlemen between advertisers and publishers. Companies across the entire industry often have no idea who they are actually working with, providing ample opportunity for fraudulent activity to go unnoticed.
A unified drive toward industry transparency, and more direct relationships between advertisers and the websites they advertise on, will limit future opportunities for digital ad fraud.
It might resemble a fictional plot line, but the discovery of Methbot sent shockwaves through the industry. Hopefully, its legacy will be to drive action against ad fraud, with the industry adopting robust solutions, understanding the value of quality impressions and increasing transparency.
(As published on MarTech Today)
March 14, 2017
January 17, 2017
January 05, 2017
December 28, 2016
December 20, 2016
December 08, 2016
VertaMedia, an award-winning video monetisation platform for publishers, has announced its membership of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) Leadership Council, demonstrating its commitment to fighting ad fraud and fostering industry-wide transparency.
VertaMedia has announced it is expanding into the UK, with the opening of a new London office and the appointment of a UK Country Manager.
VertaMedia, an award-winning video monetization platform for publishers, has announced the launch of its innovative new header bidding ad server, leading an industry-wide shift towards server-side header bidding.
VertaMedia™Intelli is a predictive algorithm that analyzes real-time data from managed and programmatic demand in conjunction with historical data available within VertaMedia’s platform. It enables the creation of waterfalls in real-time, providing publishers with maximized revenue opportunities by mapping the best ad opportunity to the best placement. The decision is made automatically based on the best combination of CPM rates, Fill Rates, and Average Response Time.
Powered by the GeoEdge high-quality video ad verification solution, we are now able to offer additional advantages to our supply-side partners. As a part of our core competencies, VertaMedia, in cooperation with GeoEdge, cares about full-scale malware protection, while our SSP customers can drive maximum value out of their web inventory
VertaMedia, an award-winning online video supply-side platform (SSP), has recently announced details of its partnership with leading ad fraud protection company, Forensiq. The partnership provides customers with a comprehensive fraud detection solution aimed at eliminating malicious activity such as malware in desktop and mobile video ads to ensure only genuine human impressions reach advertisers.
We wish the new year brings tremendous joy and good luck for you that takes you to newer heights of success.
According to the recent articles in Fortune and CNBC about Methbot — a scam that uses a multitude of automated web-browsers and fake IP addresses to steal millions of dollars each day from digital advertisers, brands, and media companies. With a botnet covering Russia, Amsterdam and the US, it has been named 'the most lucrative ad fraud operation on record'.
VertaMedia today announced it ranked 180 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™, a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech companies in North America. VertaMedia grew 479 percent during this period.