Who Stole $1.47b in Click Fraud? – Meet the Fraudsters

Think click fraud ain’t real? Think again. The top four bots (currently known) took in $1.47 billion in ad fraud. That’s nearly the same revenue as publicly traded Square (NYSE: SQ).
It’s big business. It’s profitable business.
It’s also a business with low risk of imprisonment (after a multi-year hunt, European click fraudster got a one year misdemeanor in the Eastern District Federal Court of New York).

In other words, it will attract sharks from all over the world now that revenues from one bot (Methbot AFK13) approach the revenue of Square.
Methbot – AFK13
It’s the most elusive and highest grossing click fraud bot to date.
Methbot operated for three years through a Russian cybercrime group that White Ops researchers discovered using an internal botnet infrastructure versus the traditional ad fraud protocol of infecting unsuspecting devices to do the dirty work.
Methbot employed data centers in Dallas and Amsterdam to operate the botnet with spoofed IP addresses to evade blacklists.
The Russian gang created its own web browser and http library in order to avoid detection.
“It’s the largest operation ever discovered in digital ad fraud,” says Eddie Schwartz, president and COO of White Ops, an ad fraud detection firm.
The Russian hackers built bots to imitate mouse movements and social media login information so they appear to be human-generated; forged and compromised domains gave the appearance of legitimacy to the ad exchanges.
“A custom HTTP library that was very buggy set off a bunch of alerts on our system,” says White Ops principal researcher Ryan Castellucci, who is credited with first discovering Methbot.
“When click fraud presents itself as a low risk, high profit business, we’re going to see more of it…not less of it,” said C3 Metrics advertising attribution measurement COO Jeff Greenfield. “The only saving grace it that advanced measurement companies who see traffic from multiple exchanges algorithmically exclude those touchpoints before entering an attribution equation.”
As Joker said in Batman:
“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
You have.