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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags botnets

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?