Rogues falsify billions of ad clicks

hacker_0Investigators have exposed a large-scale online advertising fraud that uses a network of hijacked computers to falsify billions of fake ad impressions, generating millions of pounds in revenues.
A so-called botnet scheme, called Chameleon, hijacked 120,000 residential PCs in the US and accounted for almost two-thirds of the total visits to certain websites. The inflated page views boosted ad revenues for the websites’ owners.
London-based start-up, which tracks web browsing activity, has published a report which claims the hijacked PCs generated up to 9 billion ad impressions every month across a network of more than 200 sites.
Software even mimicked cursor movements and mouse clicks, giving the impression that potential consumers were visiting the sites. chief executive Douglas de Jager said: “It is difficult to imagine why one would run this type of botnet across a cluster of 202 sites other than to commit display advertising fraud.” The sites which attracted the traffic charge an average 69 cents per thousand ad impressions, meaning the botnet is costing advertisers about $6m a month.
De Jager told the Financial Times that the scheme was just one of many that the online advertising industry had been fooled by – or had chosen to ignore: “We have already identified at least one other large and wholly distinct botnet – targeting a wholly distinct cluster of websites.”
The issue raises new questions about the controls used by ad technology providers, especially given the ever-changing tactics employed by cyber criminals.
Networks of hijacked computers have previously been used to overwhelm a website with traffic, after which scammers have been known to demand a ransom to halt the attack.

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