Last Wednsday the FBI released an indictment describing an international conspiracy conceived and carried out by criminals working primarily in Estonia and Russia. The defendants successfully hijacked at least 4 million computers in 100 countries, including over a half a million in the United States which comprised of computers in businesses and government agencies such as NASA.
Taken directly from the FBI press release, the damaged created through this scheme included the following:
- They victimized legitimate website operators and advertisers who missed out on income through click hijacking and ad replacement fraud.
- Unwitting customers of the defendants’ sham publisher networks were paying for Internet traffic from computer users who had not intended to view or click their ads.
- Users involuntarily routed to Internet ads may well have harbored discontent with those businesses, even though the businesses were blameless.
- And then there is the harm to the users of the hijacked computers. The DNSChanger malware was a virus more akin to an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. It had a built-in defense that blocked anti-virus software updates. And it left infected computers vulnerable to other malware.
How can you stop this from happening to you?
In short…100% click fraud prevention is impossible. Of course the case above is at a larger scale but nonetheless, as more and more businesses begin moving online and creating a more competitive market, the greater the chance of becoming a victim of click fraud.
However, there are precautionary steps to take to protect your marketing budget. As a business owner you can stay above the curve against click fraud attacks. Be alert with your campaign behavior. Establish a baseline so you can compare campaign performance daily. Ads usually have a consistent click through rate, so when you see a sudden spike in traffic it’s something you should pay attention to. Dive deeper and take a look at your conversion rate and where the traffic is coming from.
Tools and analytical reporting only goes so far, especially if you’re not quite sure what to look for, so the next step is to research a network with enough protection tools in place and ensure they are dedicated in safe guarding your budget. Whether the company has in house technology, use a third party resource or both, the traffic patterns and quality running to your ads must be monitored around the clock. Working with a company who shares the same value in protecting your money is a great start to a clean campaign.