The steps to the fraud seem simplistic enough as they mirror ClickFraud scams we have written about previously. However, it is clear that these scams actually take months of preparation. Fake websites with content must be created; bank accounts set-up; programmers hired who know how to build applications and extensions that on the surface meet the regulations and guidelines for Chrome. Then the fraudsters have to entice the initial users of the extension and quickly get the clicks set in motion before they are found out.
Our 19 year old hero, Maxime Kjaer, discovered a similar situation in place where programs were using Facebook accounts for click fraud purposes, using them to “like” links to questionable web pages.
In order to understand why the fraudsters need to set up false web pages, a short re-cap of the relationship between websites / Adsense / and web traffic is important to provide.
Google dominates search in almost every country; and Facebook has over 1 billion users. Website owners use Facebook to drive traffic to their websites and to entice people to buy their products.
Using a short code from Google Adsense, website managers can post automatically generated ads that reflect previous “likes” of clients. When a visitor clicks on an ad the publisher earns money and so does Google.
As we can easily see, the fraudsters can benefit from this combination of AdSense and the dominance of Google to reap the rewards – – and unfortunately, Google earns money from AdSense clicks so they actually financially benefit as well — even from fraud. Who does lose are the legitimate ad placers.
Traffic is diverted to the scam websites and legitimate business owners and publishers feel that their efforts are going to waste and visitors don’t even realize they are being re-directed. Worse, often computers end up infected with Malware, another topic we have covered in our blogs, and the malware forces their machines to click on the ads on the fake websites.
All too often it is only due to “white hat” individuals like Maxime Kjaer that these scams are exposed. Unfortunately before he discovered this fraud, over 132, 000 users used the extension and 9 other similar fraudulent extensions. The good news is, after the fraud was discovered Google Chrome took down the extensions from its store.
Clickfrauds innovative solution takes into account known corrupted IP addresses and monitors them across all our accounts. Therefore our unique ClickFraud solution is not reacting; but using advanced artificial intelligence to proactively stop fraud before it occurs.