Can you confidently say that you have never participated in any kind of online scam? If you are like most of us, you would probably answer ‘yes’. But there is a fairly good chance you would be wrong. Here’s the deal: cybercriminals use us to rip off other people. They do it with impunity. We are none the wiser because their activities take place in the background.
Cybercriminals use us the perpetrate multiple types of online fraud. These include:
- click fraud
- ad fraud
- mobile fraud
- bot fraud.
Security experts consider all four of these fraud types part of a much larger strategy of taking advantages of online advertising’s inherent weaknesses to make money. Each type has its own distinct features and strategies. Collectively, they cost online advertisers billions of dollars annually. We sometimes unwittingly participate as pawns in their digital chess game.
Basic Click Fraud
Basic click fraud is where it all began. Fraud Blocker, a click fraud detection service and software developer, says that the premise is pretty simple: click fraud involves clicking PPC ads as often as possible for the sole purpose of generating ad revenue.
Click fraud operates on the principal of advertises paying for every click their ads get. The more clicks, the more advertisers are charged. It’s an open invitation to scammers who set up fake publishing platforms through which ads can be served. Every click generates revenue.
Bot Fraud Ramps It Up
Bot fraud is a form of click fraud that utilizes automated software tools known as bots. Think of bots as robots deployed as software programs rather than mechanical machines. A sophisticated bot can continually scan for ads and click on them many times more quickly than human beings. Moreover, bots never get tired. They never need meal breaks or trips to the restroom. They can run 24/7/365.
Where do we come into play? Cybercriminals create bots they can plant on computers and mobile devices. Infection takes place via malware internet users pick up as they surf the web. Once infected, a device will continue running the malware until it is detected and removed.
Mobile fraud is a type of ad fraud that targets mobile devices and apps. A recently discovered scam known as Vastflux was sophisticated enough to catch 11 million phones in its net. It is a safe bet that the vast majority of users who phones were compromised had no idea.
Cybercriminals use two primary methods to commit mobile fraud:
- Ad Stacking – Ad stacking in the mobile arena involves stacking multiple ads that are too tiny to see by the human eye on top of a legitimate mobile ad. When the legitimate ad is displayed, so are all the stacked ads.
- Accidental Clicks – Perpetrating ad fraud by way of accidental clicks involves creating tiny ads and placing them in mobile apps at locations users are likely to accidentally tap while navigating menus or following links. Every tap equals a fraudulent click that generates revenue.
The number of ways cybercriminals can rip off online advertisers is truly staggering. Just when security experts think they have conquered one problem, scammers come up with something new. It is an ongoing battle between cybersecurity experts and fraudsters who think nothing of stealing from companies just trying to keep their businesses going.
Unfortunately, you and I are often roped into online scams without even knowing it. We help the criminals do what they do simply by using our digital devices. If there is any good news here, it’s the fact that we can’t be prosecuted for being made unwitting pawns.