Google has blacklisted several websites and removed apps from Play Store that were monetizing via various ad platforms, including Google and were running an ad fraud scheme.
This action was taken by Google based on information provided to the company by BuzzFeed News, who listed ‘new aspects of an ad fraud operation across apps and websites’.
Google has gone as far to blacklist apps and websites that weren’t even operating in their own ad network to ensure that no advertiser using Display & Video 360 (formerly DoubleClick Bid Manager) buys ad space on these websites or apps.
The Google advertiser spend across the apps and websites that were involved in the ad fraud scheme is under $10 million, according to the company.
According to Per Bjorke, Product Manager, Ad Traffic Quality, “The majority of impacted advertiser spend was from invalid traffic on inventory from non-Google, third-party ad networks.”
“Ad fraud is an industry-wide issue that no company can tackle alone. Collaboration throughout our industry is critical in helping us to better detect, prevent, and disable these threats across the ecosystem.”
A botnet that goes by the name of ‘TechSnab’, which has existed for quite a few years, has been identified as one of the major causes of all the illicit traffic being generated.
TechSnab works on the similar principle as other botnets creating fake traffic. It creates a hidden browser window beneath the active one that visits web pages and inflates their ad revenue.
“The malware contains common IP based cloaking, data obfuscation, and anti-analysis defenses. This botnet drove traffic to a ring of websites created specifically for this operation, and monetized with Google and many third-party ad exchanges.”
This fraud was more prominent in mobile apps monetizing via AdMob, all of which have been removed from the app store.
Google is actively investigating and blacklisting sites and apps found to be engaging in ad fraud. You can read their entire report here.