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What Makes Click Fraud So Attractive?

The net volume for digital advertising (online and mobile) was 1.928 billion euros last year. A lucrative time for advertisers and, therefore, also for scammers. Suppose you look at the current market analysis of advertising fraud, the so-called ad fraud.

In that case, it quickly becomes clear how much of the invested advertising budget needs to be used optimally. Fighting ad fraud is an ongoing arms race with increasing sophistication and new botnets daily as methods change.

Ad Fraud Is A Gold Mine

Ad fraud is extremely low-risk and at the same time offers very high chances of winning. A major incentive is the large amounts of money that can be made with fake websites and clicks. Scammers can rake in billions.

In addition, ad fraud eliminates the problem of scaling. Once criminals have managed to generate traffic to a fake website and get paid for it, they can continue indefinitely. The only limitations scammers face are the technical limitations of their botnet. Also, the risk of being penalized in the online ad fraud sector is relatively low.

Ad Fraud Is Hardly Punished

Publishers, marketers, ad networks and ad exchanges, vendors of malware—everyone involved in delivering fraudulent traffic or fake ad impressions is so intertwined that tracing the sources is nearly impossible. It is suspected that hackers and so-called botnet operators are predominantly male, come from Eastern Europe, Russia or Asia and above all from areas where it is almost legally impossible to convict someone of ad fraud.

In many countries, ad fraud falls into a legal gray area, which makes criminal prosecution considerably more difficult. It is also assumed that hacker and botnet operators are not one and the same person. Hackers are often between the ages of 18 and 35, while botnet operators are predominantly older than 35.

A Click Is Easy To Fake

To better understand why ad fraud thrives in online advertising, look at the metrics used to measure success. One of the reasons ad fraud has become a significant problem because the industry has focused on suboptimal metrics for measuring success for too long.

Instead of conversions, in which the user completes an action – such as a purchase – metrics such as click-through rate have been and are still used as indicators of advertising effectiveness. A campaign evaluation that is based on brand recognition or real user interaction with the brand is not susceptible to ad fraud. Behavioral metrics, on the other hand, like a simple click, are very easy to manipulate.

Fighting Ad Fraud Is A Collective Task

Although complex technologies against ad fraud have been developed in recent years, combating ad fraud effectively requires an industry-wide rethink in terms of measurement methods. Metrics that measure brand awareness or predefined conversions ensure that ads reach real, interested users.

In addition, the fight against ad fraud can only be won if networks, devices, browsers and user behavior are better analyzed through data science and technologies. 

Risks must be identified through malware analysis, software disassembly, and infiltration of hacker communities, and technologies evolved accordingly. This task is performed by verification and optimization providers. The fight against fraud can only be won if you are technologically up-to-date and quickly counteract new methods. Suppose all members of the digital ecosystem also adopt existing technologies and contribute to constantly developing them. In that case, the industry can win the arms race with the fraudulent networks and create a transparent, fraud-free digital advertising environment.

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