This week, a federal court indicted eight individuals for their roles in 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. Botnets are complex networks of computers, IP addresses and automation that mimic human behavior on websites to siphon ad dollars from unsuspecting advertisers led to believe their ads are getting served to real people.
3ve and Methbot botnets. 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 3ve (pronounced “eve”) 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.
The indictment is against three so-called ‘bot kingpins’ of the infamous botnets known as Methbot and 3ve, as well as other parties that were involved. Per Bjorke, product manager of ad traffic quality at Google, said in a blog post that the FBI coordinated a takedown of the 3ve’s infrastructure, making it hard to rebuild.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, 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.”