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Botnet system steals millions of dollars from advertisers

March 26, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: AdWords, Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Ecommerce, Hackers, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Click Advertising, Search Clinic, Search Engine Marketing, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

A network of thousands of computers which stole millions of dollars from advertisers by generating fake advert viewings has been discovered.Botnet system steals millions of dollars from advertisersBritish web analytics firm Spider.io claims the “Chameleon” botnet is made up of 120,000 home PCs and costs advertisers £3.9 million per month.

Spider.io said that Chameleon simulated clicks on adverts on over 200 sites.

The firm said the botnet was responsible for up to nine billion false ad views every month.

Websites that show display ad receive money when an ad is viewed, in what is called cost-per-impression advertising. It works by money being paid when an ad impression is viewed, and advertisers selling a product or a service pay the website owner a fixed amount each time their ad is viewed.

The ads are typically placed by advertising networks that act as middlemen – the network places the ad on the publisher’s site and the advertiser pays the network and the publisher.

Advertisers use clicks and mouse movements over ads as leading indicators of visitor intent – meaning that the users being shown ads are more likely to buy a product or sign up to a new service.

So if a malicious programme generates clicks or mouse traces, then advertisers will be encouraged to buy more ad space.

Spider.io said that about 95% of the hijacked machines were in the US.

“This particular botnet is being used to emulate human users surfing the web, mimicking normal browsing sessions and normal ad engagement,” said the firm’s chief executive Douglas de Jager.

“It is difficult to imagine why one would run this type of botnet across a cluster of 202 sites other than to commit display advertising fraud.

“Unfortunately, we can’t be sure precisely which of the financially motivated parties is behind this. It could perhaps even be a single person within one of the companies, unbeknownst to others at this company.”

He added that the company was able to spot the botnet thanks to a very specific behaviour of the infected computers.

“The bots subject host machines to heavy load, and the bots appear to crash and restart regularly,” he said.

“When a bot crashes the concurrent sessions end abruptly; upon restart the bot requests a new set of cookies. These crashes and idiosyncratic site-traversal patterns are just two of the many bot features that provide for a distinctive bot signature.”

“Advertising networks – not the advertisers themselves – need to work harder at identifying the difference between a genuine user clicking on an ad, and a compromise computer that has been turned into a click-fraud bot.”

 

Yahoo to axe non core services to improve profits

May 15, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: AdWords, bing, Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, Microsoft, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Results, search engines, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Yahoo has confirmed plans to shut down dozens of services which are not seen as core to the firm.Yahoo to axe non core services to improve profitsAs a result they said that it would be “shutting down or transitioning roughly 50 properties that don’t contribute meaningfully to engagement of revenue”.

The CEO Mr Thompson did not identify which units would be abandoned, but noted that news, finance, sports, entertainment and mail were safe.

“Each of our products and services may individually generate more engagement than most start-ups or even mid-sized companies in certain markets, but that does not mean that we should continue to do everything we currently do,” he was quoted as saying in a transcript of the conference call by Seeking Alpha.

The chief executive also noted that its search alliance with Microsoft was “not yet delivering” what had been expected.

The two firms agreed to team up in 2009. The idea was that Microsoft would provide Yahoo with the search results produced by its Bing service, which Yahoo would tailor to its audience. In addition Yahoo’s salesforce would target “premium” advertisers on behalf of both firms.

Mr Thompson said the UK and France were currently being moved to Microsoft’s search algorithm, and that other parts of the EU and Asia would follow.

However, he added that Yahoo was “working hard with Microsoft” to address the fact that the software firm’s AdCenter technology was still not delivering the sort of revenue it had hoped for.

For the time being Yahoo is protected against the shortfall by a “revenue per search” guarantee signed by Microsoft that is due to expire next March.

Mr Thompson was also quizzed for more detail about his promise to make better use of the company’s “vast data”.

He explained that the firm would use cookies to personalise its news content.

He added that the data would also be used to help advertisers understand how visitors used the site and to request “almost real-time” analytics data.

This is the latest in a series of turnaround plans promised for the web portal.

The key will be in getting the search and banner advert revenues higher.

Google profits from illegal ads

January 30, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: AdWords, Google, Online Marketing, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, search engines, Technology Companies, Twitter

Google is profiting from ads for illegal products generated by its pay per click advertising system.Google profits from illegal adsThe ads include unofficial London 2012 Olympics ticket resellers, as well as cannabis and fake ID card sellers.

Google has since taken down links to illegal Olympic ticket resellers following requests from the police.

But the search engine confirms that the company keeps any money it might make from companies advertising illegal services before such adverts are removed.

Selling tickets on the open market without permission from the Olympic authorities is a criminal offence in the UK under the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006.

The maximum penalty fine for reselling Olympic tickets without authorisation from the Olympic authorities was raised last year from £5,000 to £20,000.

Despite this, Google has placed adverts for unofficial ticket resellers which are breaking the law by selling London 2012 tickets to customers in the UK.

But research found other sponsored Google adverts – for online cannabis sellers, fake ID cards, and fake UK passports.

Google’s Pay Per Click AdWords advertising system is partly automated and this helps make the initial selection of the advertisements which appear at the top of its search results.

Google’s AdWords does filter key words that can help sift out adverts which might be offering unlawful services.

If a filter flags an advert, then Google will run a manual assessment – a human takes a look – and if it breaks Google’s policy, the advert will be taken down.

In a statement, Google said: “We have a set of policies covering which ads can and cannot show on Google. These policies and guidelines are enforced by both automated systems and human beings.

“When we are informed of ads which break our policies, we investigate and remove them if appropriate. Our aim is to create a simple and efficient way for legitimate businesses to promote and sell their goods and services whilst protecting them and consumers from illicit activity.”

However, dubious online retailers are still finding their way to the top of the advert results and can do so by paying a higher cost per click than other advertisers.

Google says the quality of ads also plays a role in the ranking advertisers achieve, as well as the price the advertiser is willing to pay.

Google’s sponsored links have proved costly in the past and, in August, Google agreed to forfeit £324 million ($500 million) for publishing online adverts from Canadian pharmacies selling illegal drugs to US customers.