Last week, a federal court indicted eight individuals for their participation in a widespread digital advertising fraud, with charges ranging from wire fraud and computer intrusion to aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
The news is the latest chapter in a multi-year investigation of ad fraud botnets initiated by ad fraud security firm WhiteOps in 2016. WhiteOps worked with Google and an alliance of nearly 20 companies representing the interests of ad tech, security, and internet infrastructure to investigate the fraudulent activity.
According to WhiteOps, the botnet, dubbed “3ve” infected a minimum of 1.7 million computers at any given time, counterfeited more than 10,000 websites and generated between 3 to 12 billion requests per day to sell fake online advertising.
“As alleged in court filings, the defendants in this case used sophisticated computer programming and infrastructure around the world to exploit the digital advertising industry through fraud,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “This case sends a powerful message that this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will use all our available resources to target and dismantle these costly schemes and bring their perpetrators to justice, wherever they are.”
Per Bjorke, Product Manager of Ad Traffic Quality at Google wrote in a blog post:
“A coordinated takedown of infrastructure related to 3ve’s operations occurred recently. The takedown involved disrupting as much of the related infrastructure as possible to make it hard to rebuild any of 3ve’s operations. As the graph below demonstrates, declining volumes in invalid traffic indicate that the disruption thus far has been successful, bringing the bid request traffic close to zero within 18 hours of starting the coordinated takedown.
We’ll continue to be vigilant, working to protect marketers, publishers, and users, while continuing to collaborate with the broader industry to safeguard the integrity of the digital advertising ecosystem that powers the open web. Our work to take down 3ve is another example of our collaboration with the broader ecosystem to improve trust in digital advertising. We are committed to helping to create a better digital advertising ecosystem — one that is more valuable, transparent, and trusted for everyone.”