Online ‘bots’ net billions in ad dollars

March 24, 2015

Traffic, traffic everywhere, and not a click to monetize.

Web advertising pros have long lamented the disparity between digital ad rates and those for traditional media, but the news could be worse than they thought. A study by digital security firm White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers monitored 181 online advertising campaigns by 36 brands measuring 5.5 billion impressions in 3 million domains over 60 days. The results weren’t good. The report predicted that online advertisers are losing as much as $6.3 billion a year due to bot fraud. But what is bot fraud and how does it work?

As this Reuters graphic shows, unbeknownst to their owners, millions of personal computers (maybe even yours!) become infected with malicious software, turning them into zombie robot computers, or “bots.”

These bots go to great lengths to appear like humans with desirable demographics, mousing over ads and moving items into shopping carts to create more marketable browsing histories. Meanwhile, hackers create a network of fraudulent websites, then sell ads to unsuspecting companies or ad agencies. The bots “click” on ads on the fake sites, providing the impression that a human has seen it. So-called “bad” bot traffic like this constitutes more than a quarter of global website visits. 

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