A sophisticated scheme run by Russian cybercriminals has been ripping off U.S. advertisers to the tune of between $3 million and $5 million daily, MediaLife reports, citing a new report by the anti-fraud firm White Ops.
The scam uses automated web browsers to generate hundreds of millions of false ad impressions each day.
“Those impressions were generated on counterfeited sites the Russians set up to look like legitimate ones, such as ESPN, Huffington Post, Fortune, CBS Sports, Vogue, The Economist and Fox News, just to name a few,” MediaLife reports. While advertisers believed they were buying impressions on the actual sites, they were actually paying for bogus impressions on fake sites.
White Ops says the scam included more than 6,000 sites. The organization dubbed the scam the most sophisticated ad fraud scheme ever perpetrated.
“As of earlier this month, the Russians were still doing this,” MediaLife notes. “White Ops stumbled upon the scam in September of last year, when it noted the mutation of a bot designed to create the ad impressions. It’s not clear how long the scam has been going on, but it’s been at it over a year and traffic exploded in October.”