Every time we hear more about the security problems related to digital data, the clearest example is that of Yahoo and its more than 3,000 million stolen accounts. Another example is that DDoS attack that threw some services for several hours, which was related to the null security that exists in some devices of the Internet of Things.
White Ops, a security research company, announced at the end of 2016 the details of what is considered to be “the largest and most profitable digital advertising fraud operation to date”. A fraud that was carried out thanks to a sophisticated network of Russian bots that went unnoticed for more than two months, which meant losses of more than 180 million dollars.
Losses for More than 180 Million Dollars
This botnet was developed by the group of Russian hackers ‘Ad Fraud Komanda’ or AFK13. This advanced automated system is known as Methbot, and its task was to consume ads, mainly video, and thus make advertisers had to pay for digital advertising between 3 and 5 million dollars a day.
For this to work, hackers created a fictitious advertising firm where they offered large companies to host their ads on sites such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Vogue, Fox News, among others. To accomplish this, they set up fictitious web pages that in the end nobody visited using between 800 and 1,200 dedicated servers located in the United States and the Netherlands.
Once the anthem was mounted, it was time to activate Methbot. The bot army was distributed in 571,904 IP addresses assigned to suppliers such as Verizon, Comcast and other ISPs based in the United States. These bots were programmed to see ads mounted on fake websites, and thus hackers could charge advertisers.
The real magic of all this is that each bot was programmed so that the fraud detection algorithms did not jump, that is, each bot was active only during the day, simulated to be using Chrome on a Mac, and even had a Facebook profile. With this, they never raised suspicions and statistics showed what appeared to be real people. The key was that each bot saw between two and three daily videos, in addition to simulating the actions of a user, such as movements and mouse clicks, or false logins on social networks.
White Ops calculates that AFK13 accumulated 300 million impressions per day, obtaining a profit between 3 and 5 million dollars. An operation that was kept secret for more than two months, where advertisers were paying for ads that never reached a human eye. This operation is placed as the largest fraud scheme ever made, an operation that still has unknowns as the process they carried out to perform the charges, or how they managed to hire servers to operate illegally, all without anyone noticing
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