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BizReport : Advertising : January 30, 2014


MdotLabs reveals botnet impression fraud threat to advertisers and publishers

A warning to advertisers, ad networks and publishers has been issued by media security platform MdotLabs regarding an impression fraud threat from the Athena botnet.

by Helen Leggatt

The Athena botnet has been around for some time. However, new information from MdotLabs reveals its threat to advertisers and publishers.

According to MdotLabs, while traditional security firms have discussed the Athena threat at length, none have addressed the impression fraud modules uncovered by MdotLabs.

The Athena botnet is a "formidable threat for standard viewability detection methods", says Kevin Springborn, MdotLabs Chief Architect. Since IP addresses of the fraudulent ad views come from live but infected machines, IP blacklists are limited in their scope.

Furthermore, because an infected user's Internet Explorer browser is used, including that user's history, cookies and profile, "a user with a long history of conversions and a well-defined profile could be inadvertently driving fraudulent views alongside their normal Internet usage".

"While the user interface is quite crude, it's unfortunately all too easy to use Athena to 'rent' infected computers and direct their browsing activity for the purposes of falsely inflating clicks or impressions, says Timur Yarnall, CEO of MdotLabs. "Advertisers and publishers should not only take safeguards to protect against this type of activity but also use the Athena release as a chance to learn first-hand how botnets operate."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: advertising, botnet, fraud, publisher










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