back to article Online ad scam launders legions of pirates and pervs into 'legit' surfing

An elaborate online ad scam that disguised junk traffic as views on reputable sites has been costing advertisers as much as $7m per month. Fraudsters behind the "Traffic Alchemist" scam dressed junk traffic as quality views originating from Google and Twitter. They began by buying traffic, typically on porn or torrent sites, …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Pirate

    What we suspected

    Google doesn't care.

    Web advertising is broken because of how it's done with 3rd party sites and scripts instead of a simple banner image and link hosted on the viewed website. By trying to be cleverer than printed or TV ads and track users, they have destroyed both Advertiser's trust and user acceptance of web advertising.

    Google, Facebook etc benefit from these frauds as well as the malodorous websites and scammers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mage

      "Web advertising is broken because of how it's done with 3rd party sites and scripts instead of a simple banner image and link hosted on the viewed website. "

      That's why I love it. A mere hostname in your javascript blacklist can sometimes do so much more than the most advanced adblocker.

      As to Google not caring: they do, once it starts affecting their revenue.

    2. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: What we suspected

      "they have destroyed both Advertiser's trust"

      You can't destroy something that never existed. Ad agencies long ago lost the trust of the public regardless of the delivery mechanism. Internet advertising has just reaffirmed the validity of the mistrust.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What we suspected

        "Ad agencies long ago lost the trust of the public"

        I think you're missing the point. Ad agencies are not advertisers. Advertisers are their clients; the mugs paying the agencies to place ads. Ad agencies only sell advertising and they sell it to advertisers. It doesn't really matter to them whether the public trust them or not. It doesn't really matter to them whether the adverts sell their clients' goods and services. The only thing that matters to them is their bottom line and that depends on their clients, the advertisers, trusting them and continuing to buy.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't help but be impressed by how these scam artists dream these ideas up, turn them in to reality, and make money from it.

    Especially when I dream up legit ideas, I turn them in to a reality, and they pay feck all.

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Advertisers lose $7m a month. My heart bleeds for them. Really !! Perhaps they'll be so upset they stop wasting their money on internet advertising?

    1. Bob Dole (tm)
      Thumb Up

      >> Perhaps they'll be so upset they stop wasting their money on internet advertising?

      One could only hope.

  4. DNTP

    No honor among theives advertisers.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      No honor among thieves advertisers.

      it's not advertisers. Advertisers are the victims here. It's advertising agencies. Advertisers are hoping to sell you goods and services. Advertising agencies sell advertising to advertisers. Your line should read "no honour among advertising agencies".

      If the advertisers cotton onto the idea that they're being ripped off it could be the end of online ads, at least as we know them.

      1. frank 3

        Actually, ad agencies are just as concerned as the advertisers. Measured by results: sales increases and the like, most agencies loathe this phenomenon. Yes, full disclosure, I work for one (I know, I know: here, have some snake oil). Anyway.

        We frikkin HATE this crap. I spend my day deep in analytics, trying to work out how get the right ads in front of the right people and have shit like this to deal with. I'd rather buy 1 piece of adspace and have it go to people who actually care about the product my client is selling than have to try and navigate this bewildering world of crap. Yes, it affects our bottom line (media spend goes to Google instead of allowing us to do a better job on the actual ad), so yes we hate it. Yes, it affects our bottom line because our clients don't have trust in targeting, so are tempted to spray and pray whilst bitching about cost per acquired customer: as if that's something we have any control over (because of scams like this). And you suffer because you get a million completely irrelevant ads that clutter up your browser.

        Yes. I really would rather make just one ad and send it to exactly the right people. You'd get fewer ads, we'd get to make better ads (better engineered, faster loading and less buggy too because we'd have the time/money to spend on it) and our clients get the customers they need.

        And if you don't think advertising is necessary for the modern economy to actually run then you have *never* run a business. I have.

        1. Cpt Blue Bear

          "Yes. I really would rather make just one ad and send it to exactly the right people."

          [In a Ford Prefect voice] So, you don't want to waste your time showing me ads that aren't relevant to me and I don't want to waste my time viewing ads that aren't relevant to me. How about we just agree that no ads are relevant to me? You could, in theory, stop showing me any ads and save us all time and effort. Then you could stop poring your analytics and come down the pub. Agreed?

          Ta for the snake oil - I'll rub it on my dicky knee.

  5. Peter Durkee
    Thumb Up

    Flashback

    Does this remind anyone else of what Wall St was doing a decade ago with subprime mortgages?

  6. Boothy

    Why is pop under even possible?

    Can't thins 'feature' simply be removed from browsers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is pop under even possible?

      On the contrary, can I enable this behavior to happen all the time on my browser? (subject to throttling the ad traffic to minimize impact on the pron of course). Whatever helps make the targeted ad market collapse is fine by me.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Why is pop under even possible?

      You have no idea how often I search for some means to prevent a page to open ANYTHING* that isn't a link leading to another page, in the same tab. So far? Zero success.

      * Completely disabling javascript doesn't count - not a single one of the relevant sites would work without JS (as previously noted, 'href' links are well and truly dead - these days most links are created _after_ you click somewhere...)

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Pirate

    The advertisers need to fight back!

    They could start by only showing the ads once the viewer has proved they're a legit person who wants to see the ad by passing a Captcha test. That'll sort out these despicable criminals and their automated ad impression systems!

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: The advertisers need to fight back!

      ...the only problem being that a) I have never, ever seen anyone who would _actively be trying_ to watch an ad on the internet and b) obtaining some US visas is much less hassle than passing a CAPTCHA is these days - every single one I'm presented with lately keeps feeding me infinity number of "click on all [...]" tiles, ad nauseam, insisting it's _still_ not sure I'm not a filthy robot. It has gotten so bad that I immediately do a 180 and just close the tab as soon as I see one unless I _absolutely, definitely, positively_ must perform the "protected" action behind it.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The advertisers need to fight back!

        "obtaining some US visas is much less hassle than passing a CAPTCHA is these days"

        Aaaaand...BINGO!, we have a winner! No one will do the Captchas. Win-Win all 'round, no ad-blocker required.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop it

    Or you'll go (ad) blind!

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