Forensiq, a New York-based ad security firm that promises to “relentlessly fight online ad fraud”, has provided a great way of visualizing the scope of digital ad scams – by tracking a particularly malicious bot inside a virtual computer over the course of 24 hours.
The critter Forensiq found lives in a fake “download” display ad on a copyright-infringing torrent site that users accidentally click on while looking for material. Once the computer’s infected, it sets to work visiting hundreds of fake websites in a hidden window, generating loads of ad traffic for those sites (which we assume are sold through spoofed domains on a remnant ad exchange somewhere).
In this 2-minute time-lapse, you can get a sense of all the ads impressions that get wasted in the course of just one day; this is just one bot among thousands that exist in the network. You can watch the bot scroll and hover over ads to mimic human behaviour and trick ad verification services. There’s even a shout-out to P&G, so we know it’s not just mom and pops getting defrauded.
Forensiq estimates that roughly 31% of the traffic on the web comes from malicious bots, which puts it roughly in the middle of other bad traffic detection firms.