back to article Ad-clicking bots predicted to rip US$7.2 billion from Mad Men

Botnets will inflict a massive US$7.2 billion in damages against online advertisers this year according to research by ad security company White Ops. Last year the industry was said to have lost US$5 billion, close to the $6.3 billion White Ops predicted in December 2014, thanks to the scourge of botnets that hugely inflate …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not enough

    Add a few zeros.

    Nothing personal, just business. A few billions are not significant. A few tens or hundreds of billions are. Once that happens the mad men will have to reconsider the "personalization mantras" and the industry will have to reconsider the ad-funded model altogether. The end result will be some rebalancing. While there is no guarantee that the new models will be better, it is difficult to imagine how they will get any worse. Just ask any small publisher when was the last time they have seen any money from their adwords account. I have long given up on mine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not enough

      you're being naive that this, or ANYTHING will make them change their ways, nosir. If anything, they will invest heavily in ways to make sure the clicks come from humans. Don't be surprised for a much closer human-to-machine "interaction" coming to the machines near you :(

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Not enough

        Complete this captcha to view the advertisement.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      You'd need to support JavaScript, cookies, redirect, mouse movement, God knows what else. Your Perl script would have reached self awareness before you'd finished.

  3. druck Silver badge

    Someone has to... on those ads, so it might as well be bots, as I never see them thanks to ad blocking.

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: Someone has to...

      Now, here's a question: do bots clicking ads compensate for adblocked ads?

      // inquiring minds could care less

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Someone has to...

        If a bot clicks an ad that the entire world has blocked, does it make a sound?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bill Hicks had the right idea about advertisers

    1. theModge

      Re: Bill Hicks had the right idea about advertisers

      ....I don't even need to watch the video. It's harsh, but every time I interact with that world, most of all when I had to advertise my small business, it does come to mind.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Bot Vs Human

    What identifies a bot as having "clicked" on an advert compared to a human? Too many clicks per minute per IP address?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bot Vs Human

      Bot detection is one thing that the industry dosen't like to talk about. You may not get paid because of bots but the reason from the ad broker will be "suspicious activity" and that's as detailed as you'll get. Anymore info would help the bots spoof better!

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Bot Vs Human

        Typically, the ad server sends you an email saying "blah suspicious activity blah" and doesn't pay you for traffic.

        There's no proof involved. And usually the ad comes from a bot - which is entertaining, because it means the entire process of serving, viewing, monetising, and then not paying for monetised traffic is automated.

        1. Grikath

          Re: Bot Vs Human

          hey.. The ad agency has already taken its cut, and now doesn't have to pay out as well... win-win-win...

          Who'd have thought that professional con men would use any excuse to line their pockets?

  6. Steven Raith


    ...are the little advertising execs being shown how their worthless product is massively, hilariously overvalued, leading to the worst kind of vacuous garbage being enabled by the empty, borderline fraudulent revenue it generates, and is in fact nothing but an eyesore to everyone else, and a well known security risk to those of us in the know?

    Well, cry me a fucking river.

    As AC above points out, Bill Hicks had it right, and bring on the correction.

    Steven R

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aaaw...

      Lovely wording there, Steven.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Aaaw...

        I thankyouverymuch for appreciating the rare moment when I actually make any sense, arf.

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    I Am Not An Advertizer (hey, new acronym! IANAA), but this seems to be hurting them much, much more than adblockers.

    So maybe the fraudsters bots will nuke online ads as we know them. And from the rubble will emerge - what?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh come, all ye faithful

    For once I WARMLY welcome our ad-clicking bot overlords...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they should put captcha on to view ads, win win for all......

    1. Artaxerxes

      Type COKE for refreshment!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Maybe they should put captcha on to view ads, win win for all......"

      The latest captcha appears to determine you are a human just from how you position and click the mouse on a small target area, Never rejected me - but not sure how successful it is at rejecting bots.

  10. Known Hero

    The Title was too long

    but defrauding advertisers, even by using the host user’s identifying cookies, doesn’t seem nearly as criminal," Kaminsky says.

    That would be because it is a public service.

  11. Laura Kerr

    It's entirely their own fault

    Maybe, just maybe, if ads weren't so intrusive - autostart video and pop-ups that lock the page while simultaneously spewing out http requests to the far corners of the globe are the most annoying for me - then this sort of retaliation wouldn't be happening. I'd love to find out who creates these bots; I'd buy them all the beer they could drink.

    Mr Kaminsky should have stuck to playing the cello with ELO. Because this isn't fraud at all. If advertisers are losing money because they've pissed people off so much, whose fault is that? Suck it up, marketeers. This is long overdue.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's entirely their own fault

      "spewing out http requests to the far corners of the glove"

      Otherwise known as giving the finger.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's entirely their own fault

      AFAICT, the click fraud *isn't* due mainly by pissed-off users retaliating out of principle, though.

      It's primarily the result of people deliberately inflating their clicks (via click fraud) for financial gain or other business-related reasons that benefit themselves, pure and simple. Doubt they much care either way whether or not end users had been inconvenienced by those ads in any way.

      (Users running ad-blocking software as a result of their irritation at them might cause ads to get shown less, but that's a separate issue).

  12. Seajay#

    Seems like there are a couple of ways out of this for advertisers.

    1. Don't pay per click, pay per purchase like amazon affiliates. That's a great model for amazon, very difficult to defraud. It doesn't work so well for Coke or car makers though, no-one is going to immediately buy a coke or a car online having clicked through an ad.

    2. Require more interaction from ad viewers. Want to read this article? Ok but first you're going to have to not just watch this advert but click on the car in it. The CAPTCHA to view ads solution that AC was so pleased about doesn't seem so appealing when you realise that it could only work if that advert will cover up the content until it is satisfied that you're human.

    3. Technology arms race. More intrusive monitoring by ad networks who will only register the click if they have successfully tracked you across several sites and are content that you are spending plausible amounts of time on each page and your mouse pointer is moving in a sufficiently human way.

    4. Corrupt journalism. Don't pay to have your ad run alongside some real content, pay to have your press releases published as if they were news (no, I didn't have any particular tech website in mind #innocentface). Similarly pay YouTube "stars" for product placement, etc.

    None of these seem like particularly good news for the customer. The first is the least bad, it does at least reward adverts which offer something you might actually want at the time you want it.

    1. paulf

      4. also applies to the Tory-Graph, if you've happened to stumble past there in recent times.

      There's at least one regurgitated Press Release "News story" a day; and that's just the Finance section. The Journos seem to be so tired of it they don't even try to cover it up any more.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        And even the Grauniad, sadly.

        In their case it's press releases from politicians ('Later today the minister for silly walks will announce the new targets for reverse back-stepping etc. ..') rather than commercial product placement, but is no less lazy and no more welcome.

  13. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    can someone explain?

    so a company asks an ad broker to put its ad up, and will pay them everytime it gets a click.

    Then a bot comes and clicks it loads

    How does the bot herder see any of the cash that the company now has to stump up to the ad agency?

    unless theyre in league together?

    Or has the bot herder set up the site showing the ads and hence the ad agent pays him for getting the ad seen? in which case it should be easily detectable.

    1. Triboolean

      Re: can someone explain?

      Here is one way (they don't make money from the advertiser or ad network, but...)

      Competitor is running an ad campaign.

      Company hires clickbot net to:

      1. Cost competitor money.

      2. Cause competitor to be kicked off ad network for click fraud.

      Beer icon because beer.

    2. David Roberts

      Re: can someone explain? (follow the money)

      I was meandering along here to ask much the same question.

      All this talk of "costing" and "defrauding" - who is making the money?

      Is it the web sites which are making locations on the page available to advertisers? If so, web sites with suspiciously high click rates and/or detected high bot activity should be at least "grey listed" and not have their accounts settled without further investigation.

      Is it the advert resellers who are bumping up their hit rate so they can charge the product advertiser (and for a win/win then refuse to pay the web site because of "suspicious activity")? Be interesting if the ad brokers didn't charge their clients or refunded money if they detected "bot" clicks.

      Is it the botnet herders who are being paid by the above plus for the "revenge clicks" to cost competitors money?

      Who is being defrauded?

      The ad resellers?

      The product owners who pay the ad brokers?

      If the people making the money can be clearly identified then they surely should be the ones being targeted. Nothing really in this article to say where the money goes eventually.

      Still, the original concept of "pay per click" is a real temptation.

      You will pay me every time someone clicks on an advert on my website? Oh, really? Hmmm....and me with scripting experience and access to a few servers and PCs? Sounds too good to be true.....

      After that it is click scripts all the way down.

      Edit: I suspect that it much like SPAM - nobody likes it but people are consistently making money from it and the cost of policing it falls on the people who are NOT making money from it (or losing money from it). So no real incentive to stop it.

  14. Richard Tobin

    You can help!

    Google for "whiplash", "loans", and "attorney", and click on the ads!

  15. LDS Silver badge

    Live by the ad, die by the ad....

    Ads themselves are a legitimate form of fraud, they choose a stupid way to count, identify and track viewers (click and cookies? C'mon!), and of course someone smarted then them understood they could easily be exploited by some simple bots. They deserved it.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Speaking of automated fraud....

    Has anyone else noticed a rise in "news sites" that apparently scrape the wire services and randomly substitute sort-of-synonyms to make a posted "story"?

    They have a very Eliza feel to them, and once or twice I've even seen disclaimers that note "this was automatically generated from other sources" or words to that effect.

    They're not many, I see about 2-3 a month on Google News. I don't have an example right now.

    They look like they're trying to defraud those sub-sites that do those "top 10 instances of busty nekkid wimmens" iframes.

  17. Cynic_999

    Why not advertise things that are appealing to bots? Then the bots will not only click on the ads, but will also start buying the products advertised. Make the ads invisible to humans so there's no downside. Huge boost to the economy.

  18. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Opt-in for ads?

    Adblockers should be mandatory maybe.. opt-in to get the ads. The only ones doing this other than the clueless part of the population would be the botnets. Win-win from where I sit.

    1. pitagora

      Re: Opt-in for ads?

      most of the web wouldn't exist if everybody had adblockers. Most sites are supported by adds. Very few actually make money by selling a product or service.

  19. Jonjonz

    More of these type bots needed

    Bots to make ad men's life less profitable, check.

    Bots to make lawyer's lives less profitable, hopefully coming soon.

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