Advertising fraud encompasses many activities, from impression laundering to domain masking. But, the bulk of digital ad fraud comes from non-human traffic (NHT), sometimes called “bot traffic,” due to the incredible scale fraudsters can achieve.
DSPs and independent traffic verification vendors scan for behaviors that signal that an ad was not served to an actual person. For example, a bot may do things that would be impossible for a human to do, such as “watching” thousands of videos in a single day.
Security firm Imperva reported that an astounding 52% of all web traffic in 2016 was from bots, and 29% of all web traffic was generated by harmful bots. Of course, not all NHT is fraudulent or harmful. A hearty 23% of web traffic generated last year was from “good bots.” Some friendly (and very high-volume) bots include search-engine crawlers and “feed fetchers,” which is a helper bot programmed to refresh a user’s feed on a mobile app.
All platforms – no matter how good their detection technology is – will always have some level of NHT present, which is typically expressed as a percentage of overall traffic. Currently, our own internal detection system identifies 20-40% of traffic as NHT and blocks it pre-bid leaving less than 5%, as measured by third-party vendors.
Fraud in digital advertising is prevalent and constantly evolving, so ad platforms must also evolve to combat this issue. In December 2016, cybersecurity firm White Ops reported the largest ad-fraud operation to date, which it called “Methbot.” White Ops estimated that Methbot fraudsters raked in $3-5M per day from October to December 2016.
The severity and magnitude of this operation renewed fears from advertisers about how much of their own digital advertising investment may have been exposed or was at risk. Methbot caused advertisers to take stock of their tech stack partnerships and to look for gaps.
Methbot’s impact to the BrightRoll DSP made up less than 1% of overall traffic. As a DSP, we were transparent with our advertisers about where our technology worked, but also where we may have experienced blind spots. Despite the sophistication of Methbot actors, our measures to combat fraud proved to be 99% effective.
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