The Threat of Botnets and Click Fraud
Click fraud is a very real problem for advertisers on digital media. Its proliferation in recent years has cheapened the advertising industry significantly, and the number of extremely dubious and blatantly fake site visits advertisers experience is on the rise.
One of the most common tools that the fraudsters utilize is the bot. A bot is a non-human acting on the internet. There exist many different kinds of bots online, from chat bots mascaraing as real participants in online conversations, to fake website "viewers" aimed at bolstering the publisher of an adverts own revenue streams. Whatever the specifics, a bot (or more specifically, the programmer of the bot) will usually have malicious intent.
So, what's worse than just one bot? That's right, a whole load of them. Enter, the botnet.
What Is a Botnet?
A botnet is a network of computers that have all been infected with malicious software and are working together.
These teams of host computers are used by click fraudsters to provide incredibly low quality site visits for advertising publishers. This in turn makes their advertising space more “sellable” to advertisers. The main problem with this is a botnet is not also programmed to buy a product from any of the sites. It doesn't matter how many “fake” views a website receives, they will not make a sale. And still those affected will continue to pay for the clicks.
Two famous examples of PPC botnets are Ramdo, and ZeroAccess. They both work along the principle described above and between them have cost advertisers literally millions of dollars.
How can you fight back against botnets?
It's a scary world for online advertisers these days. How can they be sure they're not the victim of click fraud? Is there a way of differentiating positive visits, and one's that can never be converted into a sale?
Fortunately, there is. Third party software services like ClickGuard analyze every click you receive, and determine their validity. They use a sophisticated algorithm to automatically exclude suspected IP addresses from even seeing your ads.
These addresses are then blacklisted and uploaded to a database of click fraudsters. This evolving list grows perpetually and excludes the displaying of adverts for these “visitors”. All this means is that you don't even have to have even been the victim of a particular scammer to be receiving protection against it.
Fighting click fraud is a tough battle indeed but armed with reliable software, it just got a lot more winnable.