BotNet Attacks! How To Prevent Measuring & Retargeting Them As ConsumersThe game of cat & mouse between the good guys trying to offer a useful product or service and the bad guys exploiting vulnerabilities for fraud (or worse) is a timeless one. The latest round of “bot networks” discovered by spider.io are just the next move in this unfortunate game. Real-time marketing aims to improve the publisher / advertiser relationship by introducing a competitive marketplace. Individuals behind these bot networks aim to cheat and devalue this marketplace, but the way to combat them goes beyond technical safeguards.
The responsibility for fraud prevention must be shared by everyone in the chain. For starters, ad tech companies must invest in the technology to automatically identify “unusual” behaviour. Surely a tooth brush site can’t have more page views than a popular online news site! Partnering with established players in the ad tech fraud detection space is a great start.
This bot network, using a comprised network of many Windows computers, pretended to be regular people browsing the web. This was no simple attack and there is no doubt about the malicious intent of this network to defraud advertisers. It took the extraordinary step of visiting certain high profile advertisers and “getting cookied” for retargeting. Many previous generation bots were not sophisticated enough to retain a browsing history. Bots in this network visited several harmless-looking sites, and immediately got retargeted.
While we must be more diligent from a technical and quality control perspective, we must also rethink the way we measure success of campaigns. Bots can click or visit pages, but they certainly don’t buy products. While getting more people to view ads can help spread the brand message, the ad tech industry needs to (and has started started to) move towards more performance-based metrics (such as CPA or ROAS), combined with proper view-through attribution. Sensible frequency caps with appropriate an interval between successive ads can help drive the message more effectively without inundating the user.
These latest attacks not only exploited technical vulnerabilities, but also exploited a flaw in the way the retargeting industry operates. Traditionally brands are encouraged to spend more, and not spend smarter. A programmatic approach to retargeting must not only focus on technical excellence, but also on returning more value to the advertiser.
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