Methbot, an ad fraud infrastructure that can host legitimate videos and serve them to 300 million fake viewers per day, has raked in around $180 million in the past few months, with each view earning the bad guys $13, according to Intel’s IT Peer Network.
According to the report, Methbot is one of the most sophisticated ad fraud networks to ever come out. Methbot hosts the videos on what seems to be high-ranking websites and then gives the website millions of views that are actually fake. The scammer gets the advertising rates for the views, which can range from $3 to $36 per thousand views. The companies who pay for real views are the victims because there aren’t real people viewing any of the videos. The report noted that video ads on highly trafficked websites get the highest prices when it comes to digital advertising.
“The size and complexity of this criminal endeavor is mind-shattering,” said Intel in the report. “Methbot is a multipart set of tools, servers, fraudulent IP registrations and software manipulations, all combined for a single purpose: to defraud the web advertising economy with maximum effect.”
In essence, Methbot creates fake users that seem to be watching advertising videos so they can make money from impressions. To be successful, the criminals, which Intel said are organized, had to create a huge infrastructure to make it look like there were users from preferred regions to boost the amount they can charge for views. Intel noted Methbot created 250,000 fake web pages to host the real videos. What’s more, the criminals bought more than 6,000 domains for the websites and are estimated to be running 8,000–12,000 dedicated servers with customized software to generate 300 million counterfeit impressions each day.
“The investment of time, resources and upfront costs was likely very substantial. Creating, testing and launching a fraud network of this size is a big undertaking. There is likely an organized team of professionals behind Methbot,” Intel said.