Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Botnets and their impact on digital advertising

A botnet, as the name defines, consists of two parts - bot, which is a short form for a 'robot' and 'net' which is a short form for 'internet'. Botnets are stealthy programs that transmit data without the knowledge of the user who is operating a computer. Botnets usually create a stealthy network and work in a very coordinated manner;  

While a 'botnet' might not cause a financial harm to the immediate user to which the computer belongs (unlike phishing), botnets voraciously can create financial losses to other people in many ways. Major problem that botnets have caused is the phenomena of malicious digital advertising clicks. Botnets replicate actions just like a human would do and try to click on links which are under 'pay-per-click' model. And because each botnet attacks from a different computer, simple IP detection will not help solve the problem. Moreover, behavior of botnets after they click a link is exactly similar to the way a typical user would react while browsing a particular website. This causes a huge loss to advertisers and makes ordinary users lose faith in search based advertising. As a consequence it is a serious threat for search engine companies like Google and Bing.

Google has recently deployed a crack team to bring about solutions to address this problem. Anti botnet teams are trying to identify patterns of clicks, path taken by mouse pointer etc. This article gives more flavor on the problem of botnets to digital advertising industry and methods of addressing them: https://securelist.com/large-slider/36257/the-economics-of-botnets/

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