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What is digital ad fraud and how does it work?

What is digital ad fraud and how does it work?
  • Ad fraud can help fraudsters to generate revenue for themselves through fake traffic, fake clicks and fake installs.
  • It can also help the cybercriminals to deploy malware on users’ computers.

It is estimated that fraudsters will earn $5.8 billion from digital ad frauds in 2019. These types of ad frauds are favorite among the fraudsters as they are hard to detect. It can help fraudsters to generate revenue for themselves through fake traffic, fake clicks and fake installs. It can also help the cybercriminals to deploy malware on users’ computers.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the common online advertising frauds that are popular among the fraudsters.

Ad placement or discount fraud

This type of attack conceals the ad on the website, even though the impression is reported. Usually, the scammers decrease the size of the ad in order to make it invisible and thus trick users into clicking the website. The purpose of this type of fraud is to increase the revenue of fraudsters by generating more ad traffic.

Ad fraud for dropping malware

This type of ad frauds is performed to take control of computers or browsers to generate ad revenues. This is done by hijacking ads or a user’s click/ browser.

  • Hijacking ads - Here the malware hijacks the ad slot on a website and displays an ad, generating revenue for the attacker rather than the owner of the website. This is done by compromising the user’s computer to change the DNS resolver.
  • Hijacking clicks - It is similar to hijacking ad placements. Here the attackers redirect the user to a different site, essentially stealing a prospective client from the advertiser. It can allow the fraudsters to manipulate the users’ clicks, thus causing the download of fake apps or malware.
  • Hijacking browser - Here the malware hijacks the user’s default browser. This causes the ad window to appear behind the main web browser window without the knowledge of the user.

Ad fraud through mobile apps

Fraudsters are using mobile apps to imitate human-like activity. It typically involves a combination of methods like bots, malware and clicks to build a large audience of fake users and consequently feed on the online advertising ecosystem.

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