Feeds

Botnet click fraud at record high

Move over, mules

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Malware-infected computers are increasingly being used to perpetrate click fraud, according to a study released Thursday that found their contribution was the highest since researchers began compiling statistics on the crime.

In the third quarter of this year, 42.6 percent of fraudulent clicks were generated by computers that were part of botnets, compared with 36.9 percent the previous quarter and about 27.6 percent in the same period of 2008. The increase comes as criminals trying to profit from click fraud take advantage of new advances in malware that make the practice harder to detect.

"As the botnets get more sophisticated, they're able to perpetrate more click fraud," said Paul Pellman, CEO of Click Forensics, the advertising auditing firm that prepared the report. "They're finding new ways of being distributed, and that's reflected in the data."

The jump in botnet use over the past year comes as the overall amount of click fraud dropped, from 16 percent of all paid ads in Q3 of 2008 to 14.1 percent last quarter. That means manual forms of click fraud, in which large numbers of individuals engage in the practice, has decreased by an even larger margin. Many of those people get paid to knowingly gin the advertising results, while others are tricked into it.

The data was compiled by monitoring pay-per-click campaigns on more than 300 ad networks and on advertisers' web sites.

Click fraud attempts to siphon away the commissions advertisers pay web site operators each time an ad on one of their pages is clicked on by a legitimate visitor. Fraudsters often set up websites with little or no content and then pocket big profits when ads from Google and other providers are viewed through the process.

Automated click fraud has existed for years, but over the past few months, researchers have identified several botnets that prominently offer such capabilities. Both the web-based infection known as Gumblar and the so-called Bahama Botnet contain malware that causes infected PCs to return altered Google results. When users click on them, they are taken to a series of intermediate links before arriving at their final destination.

"It's in everyone's best interest in the online community to find and stamp out click fraud," Pellman said. "The fraudsters are trying to stay a step ahead of those efforts." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.