Botnets contributing more than ever to click fraud

Security vendor Click Forensics says botnets now account for more than 40 percent of false clicks

Networks of hacked computers are being used more than ever to click on advertisements, a scam known as click fraud that cheats search engines, publishers and ad networks out of revenue.

For the third quarter of the year, 42.6 percent of fraudulent clicks came from botnet-infected computers, according to Click Forensics, a company that produces tools to detect and filter out fraudulent clicks. The figure is the highest in four years, when Click Forensics began producing reports. For the same quarter a year ago, botnets accounted for 27.5 percent of bad clicks.

Botnets are a powerful tool for hackers. They can be used to send spam, harvest data and conduct distributed denial-of-service attacks against Web sites. And the malicious software infecting PCs that are part of botnets is continuously being developed for other evil purposes.

"What we are seeing is that click fraud is now a component of these botnets as well," said Paul Pellman, CEO of Click Forensics.

Click Forensics doesn't calculate how much the click fraud costs advertisers and publishers, but it is a significant problem: For the latest quarter, Click Forensics calculates the overall click fraud rate was around 14.1 percent. The statistic comes from an analysis of traffic on 300 ad networks.

For advertisers and ad networks, that means that 14.1 percent of the clicks on their ads are bogus, which costs them money. Those who are perpetrating click fraud are getting much more sophisticated.

"It's never any one thing that identifies traffic as fraudsters," Pellman said.

An obvious indicator is a high frequency of clicks from a group of computers. Click Forensics employs machine-learning to spot anomalous patterns that may indicate click fraud. It also distributes a block list that publishers can use to keep low-quality traffic coming from known click-fraud offenders, Pellman said. The highest volume of bad clicks for the latest quarter came from the U.K., Vietnam and Germany.

If a computer is infected with botnet click-fraud code, the program will open a browser window that has a length and width of zero, which is invisible to the user, Pellman said. It will then cycle through preprogrammed Web sites and click on certain ads.

The latest trick has been to let the botnet's computers click on ads with a low frequency across a high number of computers. The goal is to make the traffic look "as much as possible like real traffic," Pellman said.

"The fraudsters continue to get more and more sophisticated," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags botnets

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Imou: At home with security

Modern living is all about functionality and security for everybody from the very young to the very old. With Imou anybody can enjoy smart life – the solution is at their fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?