This post isn’t exactly a “how to” but if your current employment isn’t bringing in the bacon, I’m sure your criminal mind can figure it out. In the biggest digital advertising fraud in the history of the U.S., it was recently found that a group of hackers is bringing in from $3 million to $5 million a day from media companies and brands. That’s some scratch!
White Ops, an online fraud-prevention firm, uncovered this campaign, which they have called “Methbot,” and the firm found that the campaign is generating more than 300 million video ad impressions each day.
AFT13, which is a cyber criminal gang, has worked to develop the Methbot browser, which spoofs all of the interactions that are necessary to initiate and carry out these ad transactions.
The hackers, which are allegedly Russia-based, have registered more than 250,000 distinct URLs and 6,000 domains, all of which impersonate US brand and companies, including Vogue, ESPN, Fox News, Huffington Post, and CBS Sports. They then take these sites and sell fake ad slots.
The cybercriminals that are behind Methbot are using their servers, which are hosted in Amsterdam and Texas, to give power to almost 600,000 bots. These have fake IP addresses, most of which belong to the US, and this makes it look like the ads are being viewed by visitors in the US. The criminals then get video-ad inventory, which they display on the fake media website that they have created. They get top dollar for this, and they trick the marketplace into believing that this content is being seen by legitimate visitors. In reality, however, these ads are being “viewed” by fake viewers thanks to an automated program that mimics a user watching an ad.
To make the bots look even more real, the group also uses methods such as fake clicks, mouse movements, and even social network login info. White Ops has also found that this fake army of viewers has amassed about 300 million ad views each day, and it has an average payout of about $13 per every 1000 views. If you multiply this by the compromised IP addresses out there, the money is rolling in.
White Ops believes that the Methbot empire has created from 200 to 300 million fake video ad impressions each day, which targets about 6,000 publishers. In a 24-hour period, this is generating somewhere between $3 and $5 million in each 24-hour period.
While the operation has its headquarters in Russia, White Ops can’t say for sure that Methbot has Russian origins. The good guys have been in contact with the FBI, and together, they have been working towards stopping this scam for several weeks.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.