Russian bot farm siphons up to $5M in digital ad revenue daily
- A single Russian group running a bot farm called Methbot is tapping data centers in the U.S. and the Netherlands to target the premium video ad ecosystem. Their efforts generate anywhere from $3-5 million daily via fraudulent ads, according to digital security firm White Ops.
- Adweek reported that the bot farm has around 600,000 counterfeit IP addresses that generate anywhere from 200 to 300 million impressions for video ads that no one ever watches.
- A White Ops source told Adweek that the bot farm is still running and that the security firm didn’t know when it first became active. Methbot is affecting 6,000 top publishers including Fox News, ESPN, Fortune, The Huffington Post, The Economist, Vogue and CBS Sports.
Ad fraud and malicious bot activity have been a major problem for the digital advertising industry from day one, but the issue often took a backseat to quality-centered ones like ad blocking technology this year. The news about Methbot and just how far spread its tendrils are should serve as a reminder that fraud continues to hurt the industry's bottom line in a big way, in this case hitting marketers the hardest because they are being charged for ads that don’t get viewed — at least not by real people.
Methbot looks to be particularly effective since it runs its scheme through reputable publishers that marketers generally trust, and is taking advantage of premium video ads, which are one of the hottest formats right now.
White Ops is offering marketers lists of spoofed domains and compromised IP addresses for the time being. The firm became aware of Methbot by analyzing its customer data, and decided to make its findings public to allow the entire industry to work collectively toward ending what it definitively described as a “threat.”