Digital Ad Fraud
Countermeasures
Dr. Augustine Fou
http://linkd.in/augustinefou
acfou @mktsci .com
January 2014
-1-

Augus...
“Digital ad fraud is well known and well
documented. However, the magnitude of it may
not yet be well understood. Furtherm...
Blacklisting Sites
Value
Exclude sites from
serving your ads

-3-

Caveat
For every site
excluded, bad guys put
up more (b...
Enforcing Viewability
Value

Caveat

Only pay for ads which
are viewable (i.e. above
the-fold)

Bad guys have already
defe...
Bot Detection
Value

Caveat

Good guys use algorithms
to detect unusual
behaviors indicative of
bots (rather than humans)
...
Using CAPTCHAs
Value

Caveat

Captchas deter bots from
filling in forms and stealing
content and cookies.

Some bots can n...
“The above countermeasures are all good, and
advertisers should continue using them. But they are not
enough. If the good ...
Digital Ad Fraud
Backgrounder
-8-

Augustine Fou
Why Now?
“As more ad inventory is bought and sold
programmatically on ad exchanges, bad
guys are finding it far easier to ...
Waste Due to Fraud
• Display ad fraud is the easiest to commit and bad guys
sell tons of “junk” inventory into ad exchange...
Types of Ad Fraud
Impressions

Clicks

Leads

Sales

(CPM fraud)

(CPC fraud)

(CPL fraud)

(CPA fraud)

Bot or low
wage w...
How Impression (CPM)
Ad Fraud Works
- 12 -

Augustine Fou
Bad Guys Put Up Sites
site = analyzecanceradvice .com

site = missomoms.com

19 blocked ads on page

- 13 -

Augustine Fou
Load Tons of Ads on Pages

http://modernbab y.com/
http://interiorcom plex.com/

- 14 -

Augustine Fou
Fake their “Viewability”
Ads are above the
fold of the page
But their pixel
opacity can be set
to zero (invisible)
Entire ...
Use Bots to Load the Pages
Source: Google

Source: Wired

- 16 -

Augustine Fou
Sell Bulk Impressions
“Modernbaby.com and Interiorcomplex.com
Each of these sites peddles enormous traffic on the
exchange...
How Search (CPC)
Click Fraud Works
- 18 -

Augustine Fou
Bad Guys Choose Expensive Keywords
olay.com

homemadesimple.com

> 100,000 monthly searches
avg position 1 – 10
sort by hi...
Bots Type Search Term
healthsiteproduc tionalways.com

buy eye cream online

- 20 -

Augustine Fou
Bots Click Search Ad

Olay.com ad
in #1 position

- 21 -

Augustine Fou
Pass Fake URL Trackers
http://www.olay.com/skincare-products/OlayProX?utm_source=msn&utm
_medium=cpc&utm_camp
aign=Olay_Se...
Related Articles
Digital Ad Fraud Briefing
By: Augustine Fou December 2013

Fake YouTube Videos
By: Augustine Fou, Decembe...
Dr. Augustine Fou – Digital Consigliere
“I advise clients on optimizing
advertising across all channels. One
main area of ...
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Digital Ad Fraud Countermeasures by Augustine Fou

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Digital ad fraud is more rampant than ever. Big brand advertisers are just starting to realize the extent of it and are starting to deploy countermeasures. But these countermeasures, deployed individually may not be sufficient to fight the entire ecosystem that bad guys have set up.

Published in: Technology, Design

Digital Ad Fraud Countermeasures by Augustine Fou

  1. 1. Digital Ad Fraud Countermeasures Dr. Augustine Fou http://linkd.in/augustinefou acfou @mktsci .com January 2014 -1- Augustine Fou
  2. 2. “Digital ad fraud is well known and well documented. However, the magnitude of it may not yet be well understood. Furthermore, ‘industry constituencies [may be] insufficiently motivated’ (Source: IAB) to act ferociously to deter and reduce these fraudulent activities.” -- Dr. Augustine Fou -2- Augustine Fou
  3. 3. Blacklisting Sites Value Exclude sites from serving your ads -3- Caveat For every site excluded, bad guys put up more (because they don‟t have to play by the rules). Augustine Fou
  4. 4. Enforcing Viewability Value Caveat Only pay for ads which are viewable (i.e. above the-fold) Bad guys have already defeated “viewability” by stuffing ads in hidden layers, all above-the-fold. Source: Spider.io May 2, 2013 -4- Augustine Fou
  5. 5. Bot Detection Value Caveat Good guys use algorithms to detect unusual behaviors indicative of bots (rather than humans) It’s an arms race between good and bad; bots are more sophisticated and can fake mouse movements and keep cookies. Source: Spider.io March 2013 -5- Augustine Fou
  6. 6. Using CAPTCHAs Value Caveat Captchas deter bots from filling in forms and stealing content and cookies. Some bots can now solve some captchas, most captchas don’t protect content pages. Source: Solve Media Dec 31 2013 -6- “Startup called Vicarious automatically solves CAPTCHAs.” Oct 2013 http://bit.ly/1bFo9lZ Augustine Fou
  7. 7. “The above countermeasures are all good, and advertisers should continue using them. But they are not enough. If the good guys fight the fight individually, there is little chance they can overcome the entire ecosystem of the bad guys. The good guys need to band together into their own ecosystem and put the bad guys on a „digital ad fraud equivalent to the National Sex Offenders Registry‟.” -- Dr. Augustine Fou -7- Augustine Fou
  8. 8. Digital Ad Fraud Backgrounder -8- Augustine Fou
  9. 9. Why Now? “As more ad inventory is bought and sold programmatically on ad exchanges, bad guys are finding it far easier to commit fraud because few agencies and advertisers actually check in detail the hundreds of thousands of sites on which the ads are run. It‟s easier to hide in a far larger haystack.” -- Dr. Augustine Fou -9- Augustine Fou
  10. 10. Waste Due to Fraud • Display ad fraud is the easiest to commit and bad guys sell tons of “junk” inventory into ad exchanges; ad buyers are goaled on number of impressions so that perpetuates the problem. 30-75% • Video ad fraud is the new area of focus because video ad impressions are 10x more lucrative than display; ad buyers are goaled on “tonnage” of impressions and therefore perpetuate the problem. 50-80% • Search ad click fraud is harder to commit and usually occurs on “search partner network” sites; but high spending categories like insurance and high CPC categories like pharma are favorite targets of the bad guys who can earn $78 per click. 20-40% - 10 - Augustine Fou
  11. 11. Types of Ad Fraud Impressions Clicks Leads Sales (CPM fraud) (CPC fraud) (CPL fraud) (CPA fraud) Bot or low wage workers fill in lead forms with real addresses and get paid bounty per lead. Fake sites set up to do cookie stuffing or trick users to click on affiliate links to earn rev share. Botnets generate fake pageviews which produce ad impression “inventory” that is sold into ad exchanges. - 11 - Bots type search queries to bring up search ads and then click on the ads to earn share of CPC. Augustine Fou
  12. 12. How Impression (CPM) Ad Fraud Works - 12 - Augustine Fou
  13. 13. Bad Guys Put Up Sites site = analyzecanceradvice .com site = missomoms.com 19 blocked ads on page - 13 - Augustine Fou
  14. 14. Load Tons of Ads on Pages http://modernbab y.com/ http://interiorcom plex.com/ - 14 - Augustine Fou
  15. 15. Fake their “Viewability” Ads are above the fold of the page But their pixel opacity can be set to zero (invisible) Entire web pages stuffed into ad iframe; ads counted as viewable Source: Spider.io May 2, 2013 - 15 - Augustine Fou
  16. 16. Use Bots to Load the Pages Source: Google Source: Wired - 16 - Augustine Fou
  17. 17. Sell Bulk Impressions “Modernbaby.com and Interiorcomplex.com Each of these sites peddles enormous traffic on the exchanges. For example, on a recent day Modern Baby was offering 19 million impressions via one exchange (quite the baby boom) and Interior Complex 30 million [ad impressions PER DAY] (the roaring housing market must be back).” Source: Adweek – Suspicious Web Domains Cost Online Ad Business $400m per Year By Mike Shields - 17 - Augustine Fou
  18. 18. How Search (CPC) Click Fraud Works - 18 - Augustine Fou
  19. 19. Bad Guys Choose Expensive Keywords olay.com homemadesimple.com > 100,000 monthly searches avg position 1 – 10 sort by highest avg CPC “cosmetic face lift” “residential home cleaning” $10.84 CPC $9.95 CPC Source: iSpionage Nov 2013 - 19 - Augustine Fou
  20. 20. Bots Type Search Term healthsiteproduc tionalways.com buy eye cream online - 20 - Augustine Fou
  21. 21. Bots Click Search Ad Olay.com ad in #1 position - 21 - Augustine Fou
  22. 22. Pass Fake URL Trackers http://www.olay.com/skincare-products/OlayProX?utm_source=msn&utm _medium=cpc&utm_camp aign=Olay_Search_Deskto p_Category+Interest+Prod uct.Phrase&utm_term=eye %20cream&utm_content= TZsrSzFz_eye%20cream_ p_2990456911 Click thru URL passing fake source - 22 - Augustine Fou
  23. 23. Related Articles Digital Ad Fraud Briefing By: Augustine Fou December 2013 Fake YouTube Videos By: Augustine Fou, December 2013 Ad Fraud Fighting Techniques By: Augustine Fou October 2013 Fake Linkedin Profiles By: Augustine Fou, December 2013 How Display Fraud Works By: Augustine Fou, May 2013 Fake Facebook Profiles By: Augustine Fou, Dec 2013 How Click Fraud Works By: Augustine Fou, November 2013 Fake Twitter Accounts By: Augustine Fou, August 2013 The Magnitude of Digital Ad Fraud By: Augustine Fou, November 2013 - 23 - Augustine Fou
  24. 24. Dr. Augustine Fou – Digital Consigliere “I advise clients on optimizing advertising across all channels. One main area of focus is reducing ad waste due to fraud – fake impressions, clicks, leads, and sales – in order to raise ROI.” FORMER CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, HCG (OMNICOM) MCKINSEY CONSULTANT CLIENT SIDE / AGENCY SIDE EXPERIENCE PROFESSOR AND COLUMNIST ENTREPRENEUR / SMALL BUSINESS OWNER PHD MATERIALS SCIENCE (MIT '95) AT AGE 23 ClickZ Articles: http://bit.ly/augustine-fou-clickz Slideshares: http://bit.ly/augustine-fou-slideshares LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/augustinefou - 24 - @acfou Augustine Fou

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