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8 Indicted In Massive Digital Advertising Conspiracy

Published in Blog

Eight men have been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department, accused of a sprawling campaign of advertising fraud that utilized nearly two million hijacked computer systems and hundreds of servers across dozens of datacenters worldwide, costing advertising networks tens of millions in payments for ad views that never reached a human eye. 

A Massive Criminal Undertaking 

Operating under the codename “3ve,” the fraud scheme was massive in scope and complicated in execution. First detected in 2017, the exact beginnings are uncertain, but it is highly likely the botnet was operating for a significant amount of time earlier than initial discovery. The plot made use of a network of hijacked devices infected through the typical methods: attachments in trapped emails and mislabeled downloads scattered throughout the Internet. The exact size, scope, and location of the botnet and the servers managing it shifted constantly, making it much harder to pin down and hiding the true size of the operation until much later. 

Once the 3ve network had its network of bot devices, they got to work on monetizing them by creating thousands of fake websites. Once running, these websites would make automated bids for ad inventory to digital marketing firms, just like most websites on the Internet do to secure ads to their own visitors. Once ads were showing on these fake websites, they would direct their botnet to visit them, counting millions of ad views and collecting paychecks from digital advertising networks without a single human ever viewing an ad. 

A “Very Complex, Ever-Shifting Maze” 

While the monetization was generally done the same way – generating fake views on real ad inventory to collect the advertising revenue – the specifics shifted enough to make the whole operation much harder to trace than similar, smaller fraud rings. Sometimes the bots were run from massive servers in datacenters and only used spoofed IPs from the devices in the botnet; sometimes the devices themselves sent the request to visit the fake websites; and sometimes they didn’t use hijacked residential devices at all, but instead used datacenter servers as proxies to communicate with other, smaller servers at other datacenters to generate the fraudulent traffic. Any of their techniques on its own would be an extremely complicated endeavor to operate at scale, but all the methods together created a quagmire of confusing data for investigators to sort through. 

Taking It Slow 

Google first caught a whiff of the botnet in 2017. As they continued investigating and following clues, they realized that the operation was much larger than initially suspected – and that they weren’t the only ones on the case, with various other large tech companies also investigating the suspicious activity, including behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon and including White Ops, a bot detection firm that proved instrumental in the takedown operation. Google invited these groups to work together to discover the extent of the fraud and devise the best way to combat it. 

Also on the invitation list were the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, whose most active role came just recently. As eight men were indicted as primary coconspirators – six Russians and two Kazakhstan nationals – it was revealed that three were already in custody, apprehended in Malaysia, Bulgaria, and Estonia at the request of US officials. While five of the men remain at large, international arrest warrants have been issued. 

That doesn’t mean those still free can continue the operation, though. The FBI also obtained warrants to seize control of a number of internet domains and over seven dozen servers used to manage the complicated infrastructure of the fraud network. In just 18 hours, the overwhelming majority of traffic generated by 3ve’s systems ground to a halt. In a statement, White Ops called the cooperation between tech companies like Google and law enforcement “a rather historic turning point in the history of ad fraud.” 

Unprecedented Scale 

The scale of this single operation was large enough to have a surprisingly large effect on the entire digital marketing space. At its peak, Google noted that 3ve maintained over one million IP addresses (hijacked devices), larger than the number of broadband connections in Ireland. These devices worked with over one thousand servers at datacenters to visit over ten thousand counterfeit websites to fraudulently generate over three billion ad requests every single day. While exact numbers have not been released, it’s estimated that advertises lost well into the millions of dollars as a result of this scheme. 

Ad Fraud: Easy Money? 

It’s easy to see why these men chose advertising fraud as their path to illicit gains: it’s extremely lucrative and hardly ever punished. The digital advertising industry is worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars, but due to the extremely limited oversight and regulation surrounding it, fraud is common, and punishment is rare. The problem is made even more complicated by the international nature of online advertising: often, just like in the case of 3ve, the companies being most harmed by the activity are on the other side of the world as those profiting from it. That means law enforcement must work across international boundaries to locate and apprehend those responsible, a process with all sorts of potential hang-ups and pitfalls. 

If it continues at its current pace, advertising fraud is slated to become the second most lucrative crime on the planet by total revenue, eclipsed only by the drug trade. With so many barriers to detection and enforcement, Google has made attempts to limit fraud itself, mostly through their “ads.txt” initiative. Participating ad publishers are able to specify exactly which businesses are allowed to sell their ad inventory, making it much for difficult for fraudsters to receive that inventory and direct non-existent views toward it. But as prevention measures are rolled out, so have the criminals become more creative in their methods to evade detection. 

Still, the cooperation between Silicon Valley and the Department of Justice sends a strong message that perpetrators can no longer expect to be free of penalty when their fraud is discovered, wherever on the globe they set up shop.

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How To Advertise Doorbuster & Black Friday Deals

Published in Blog

Advertising Black Friday deals and doorbusters is a major part of how a company becomes profitable near the end fo the year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become some of the biggest shopping days of the year, and most companies will do much of their business on these two days.

They tend to make money all the way through the Black Friday weekend because they will start early and go all the way through Cyber Monday. Your advertisements must be built in a way that they appeal to everyone who wants to get a good deal.

Daily Deals

You would do well to create daily deals for your company that change from Friday to Saturday and into the weekend. Your Black Friday deals could be different from Cyber Monday, and you could have a different promotion for each day of the weekend. The idea is to get people to come back to the store or site more than once, and daily promotions will achieve your goal.

This Is The Day For Steep Discounts

You have likely avoided many steep markdowns during the year because you do not want to lose any money on your products. Black Friday and beyond is the time to offer steep discounts to all your customers. You can move out a lot of merchandise that you need to sell before you bring in more Christmas merchandise, and you can finally markdown items that have been in the store for some time. Do not be afraid to offer steep discounts, and make certain that you have made those discounts look as appealing as possible.

How Do You Create A Discount That Sounds Good?

There are many people who will find that they can get a nice discount on a product that they thought would never come. However, you must make the discounts stand out. Do not be afraid to offer a 47% discounts on something that customers know you are serious. Use your marketing plan to rhyme your discounts with the mottos of the company, and you might prefer to use the marketing to show all the prices that results from your big discounts.

Where Do You Advertise?

You must advertise in as many places as you possibly can. Your advertising plan will have you posting ads online, posting on social media, and running radio ads in the community. This is the perfect time of year to post as much advertising as you can, and you must continue to post advertising all the way through the season. Your company will benefit because you have more people seeing your ads, and you will notice that people start to relate your company with the ads and deals you have offered. You should have your advertisements posted by a professional marketer who knows how to find these locations for marketing. They do most of the work, and they will show you where the ads have been posted so that you know what your company is doing during this season.

Who Are You Competitors?

You must know who your competitors are and what they are doing. You can make your company a must more powerful force in the Black Friday market if you are marketing above and beyond what your competitors are doing. These companies are doing a lot to get some customers to come to their side, and you need to be sure that you have used their tactics better than they have. A marketer who does this every day can show you how this works, and they will explain to you what they would do in your position. The marketer can research other ads that have been created, and they will start to deploy new ads for your company.

Special Contests

Special contests for your customers must be posted for them so that they can participate when they want to buy something that is specific to them. You could release contests for your most popular items, and you might even want to start a contest that has a major prize that is given out over the course of that weekend. Someone who wants to do this needs to remember that they can easily pick a prize, start the contest, and encourage people to join the contest before the weekend starts.

Interact With Customers

You need to interact with your customers on your blog of social media. They will want to talk to you about the products they plan to buy over the Black Friday weekend, and you might find that your customers are intrigued by something specific that you need to sell them if you want them to be happy. Anyone who is trying to make the right choices for their company will find that talking to customers is helpful. Social media allows you to get answers from the company right there, and it helps you make the right choices for this weekend.

Advertise In Advance

You must start advertising in advance of the Black Friday weekend. You cannot surprise everyone with your sales. You need people to know that they can plan to come to your business to shop, and they need to have a plan for shopping with just your company. Some people do this every year, and you want to get on their schedule so that they will come shop with you.

Conclusion

You can start advertising at any time for the Black Friday weekend, and you will discover that the weekend is really the only time for you to give the big discounts that you have been avoiding for the rest of the year. There are many people who will want to use the advertising for Black Friday to get their company into the black for the year, and you can put up doorbusters. That will be so cheap they will sell out in just a couple hours. Someone who plans to start a sale needs to advertise so that their customers know to show up.

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What is Decentralized Web?

Published in Blog

Decentralized web, also referred to as Web 3.0 is a next generation internet built around the increasing common blockchain technology. The new web will be a peer to peer network where each of the users will own their data, storage and computing resources will be provided by end users in distributed networks, data will be portable, apps will run locally in user devices, and the computing platforms will be autonomous and decentralized. Several new technologies are moving us to the era of the next generation internet which include the rapid development and utilization of the blockchain technology, the Internet of Things, datafication and rapid growth of advanced analytics. 

 

What of Web 1.0 and 2.0?



Web 1.0 was the first-generation World Wide Web created in the 1990s based on HTTP technology. The technology worked by linking documents from different computers and making it possible to access the documents on the internet. The documents were displaced by the use of HTML language and the documents viewed through a browser. The goals of Web 1.0 were to enable easy exchange of information that is why the name ‘information superhighway’ was coined. Unfortunately, at the time, there were just a few content creators. Majority of the people were consuming the content. The content was strict, and there was no interactivity. 

Web 2.0 improved the passive content viewing in Web 1.0 by allowing internet users to interact, become content creators and collaborate in making information available on the internet. This development allowed people to read and write on the internet at the same time. This technology got synonymous with social media and digital marketing platforms, video sharing, blogging, YouTube, Facebook, and eBay among other platforms. The development of the server-side PHP scripting technology made it easier for web designers to create applications that allowed the users to write information to a set database and the information update automatically when the users refreshed their pages. 

What are the shortcomings of these two technologies? 



Both Web 1.0 and 2.0 are built on centralized internet n their current form. While the internet is not 100 percent centralized because data is stored all over the place, most physical servers are associated or operated by known companies. These servers are responsible for everything including social media, email and running individual web pages. This means that companies running the servers have control of what everyone can view on the internet. Centralization opens us to several vulnerabilities in the following ways: 

• Servers can experience a downtime 

Servers can go down due to several issues. They can be targeted by bad actors and malicious internet users and wreak havoc in most infrastructures of the economy, killing jobs reliant on digital advertising, and leading to massive losses to individuals and corporations. 

• The problem of hacking is increasing by the day 



The risk of hacking is real. Personal data and other information are getting leaked into unauthorized hands and creating losses, identity theft, and other ills in the internet. 

• Companies can censor or throttle data 



There has been an uproar over the loss of data neutrality in the last few years. Most large internet providers are not treating al the data the same. They determine what get into end user’s computers and charge more for more information. 

• Companies collect and monetize user data 



Most companies will make you sign long entry forms when creating your account. Unfortunately, most of the data ends up being sold to advertisers for digital advertising. A more recent case was that of Facebook where the social media giant was found to be collecting personal data illegally. 

Web 3.0 solves these problems 

Blockchain technology seems to be making strides across different sectors of the economy, including the internet and financial transactions. With Bitcoin being the first use case, the technology has enabled P2P transactions without the use of middlemen. This technology will help deal with the significant shortcomings of web 1.0 and 2.0 in the following ways. 

It is redesigning data structures 



In the early days' data used to be stored locally. If you wanted to share information, you would have to load it in a floppy disc and give to the user who needed it. The server then came into the picture where data was stored in one unit and shared with devices around the world. Unfortunately, centralized data structure has its limitations. In a decentralized data structure, there will be several points or nodes where data can be accessed. Eventually, the data will be distributed in a way that there will be no nodes where devices will connect to get data, but they will share data in a peer environment. 

Datafication 



Datafication is the ability to capture data in as many aspects of our lives as possible especially those aspects which could not be quantified earlier. The process ends up with big data. These are vast amounts of data which is unstructured. Advanced data analytic technologies are then used to mine this data and give insight into various aspects of the world around the user. 

This data is of great importance to the blockchain technology. First, a lot of personal data will be collected. Second, there will be a lot of value exchanged that has not been available in the past. Moreover, different players will be responsible for the given data. Third, the use of analytics will assist in discovering correlations and patterns within blocks of data. This will bring into light new ways of verifying data that is fed into the blockchain without working with centralized authorities to enhance data validation. 

Things will get much smarter as machine learning, and advanced forms of cognitive computing will become available to nearly all applications. Therefore, most applications will be adaptive to the needs of the users, the internet will be responsive, and the information that users receive will be personalized as per their requirements and characteristics. 

The internet of things 



A combination of the Internet of things with Web 3.0 will allow seamless completion of processes across various systems. The open nature of systems will make it easier for machines to communicate and coordinate operations across multiple organizations, systems, and domains without the authorization delays. This will enhance interaction and coordination. Web 3.0 will make it possible to move from smart things to enhancing service processes. 

Another exciting aspect of IoT and Web 3.0 will be the “servicization” of the economy. Most people will move from ownership to access services on demand. Here is an example, instead of buying a car, you will access a car-sharing service. Digital marketing will also become easier as information will be targeted depending on user characteristics. 

Conclusion



There are interesting times ahead with Web 3.0. It enables greater data sharing, creation, and manipulation for enhanced benefits. Although web 1.0 and 2,.0 will not completely die out., they will be relegated to specific use cases. Most of the internet will run on blockchain technology.

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How Amazon Is Taking Over Other Ad Platforms

Published in Blog

Amazon has created their own ad platform that changed the way digital marketing and digital advertising works.

Someone who is new to the game might think that Google AdWords is the only way to go, and they night have thought that Facebook would help them get ahead. However, they have new options in what Amazon is doing, and there is a look at why Amazon is becoming the best place for people to go who want better digital options. Online companies are often searching for cheaper and easier ways to manage marketing, and they should consider Amazon if they think they need new places to advertise.

Amazon Has Surpassed Microsoft

Amazon has already surpassed Microsoft in terms of advertising. The digital marketing world has been rife with Microsoft ads, but Microsoft has not improved their system as much as the people at Amazon have. Amazon is coming out with new ways for people to advertise, and they have improved their platform to make it as user-friendly as possible. There are several different ways for people to use Amazon because they have affiliate programs, PPC ads, and ads that run on search engines along with shopping results.

Amazon Is Closing In Facebook And Google

Amazon is getting much closer to Facebook and Google for their overall marketing programs, and that tight gap has caused both Facebook and Google to make changes to their own platforms. There is no way to know if Amazon could overtake both companies, but Amazon is clearly the third viable option in a market where people want to have as many choices as they can get for digital advertising. The company wants to have something that works just as well as Google and Facebook, and they might overcome both companies if they continue to improve at this rate.

Amazon Is A Serious Threat To Facebook And Google?

Amazon is a serious threat to both Google and Facebook, but the simple fact si that all three of these companies do completely different things. Facebook is a social network, and Google is a search engine. Amazon is an online market, and each company will probably have something to offer the public that will be useful. People who are trying to sell their products are much more likely to use Amazon because they can link right to the Amazon page. They will get more favorable affiliate ads, and they might get better advertising on shopping results through search engines. This is a very serious thing for people to consider if they are looking for a better way to advertise.

Affiliate Ads

The affiliate ads that are created through Amazon are helpful because they go right to the Amazon page that people have created. The affiliate ads pay the people who post them, and the rates will likely be more favorable because there is no middleman. Amazon is doing all the work, and that makes the affiliate ad pay off more for both parties.

Amazon's Interface

Amazon might well create the best interface for their advertising because they have done such a good job with apps in the past. Amazon could surpass both Facebook and Google because their apps are meant for searching and social media. Amazon can focus on the ads that people need to create, and that means that the user who only has so much time in their day can invest a little bit of time in ads instead of being frustrated for half the day.

Amazon's Reach

Amazon has a reach greater than both google and Facebook because almost everyone uses Amazon in some way. They have a way of attaching their ads to news articles in the Washington Post, and they have a network or entertainment that will accept their ads. Amazon is uniquely positioned for this, and that is why their ads are catching up to the elite.

Conclusion

Amazon ads could be the next big thing for most companies, and they will help small companies more than any other. People who have very little time to use an advertising program will find Amazon to be simpler, and they can get ads just as fast as they would with Facebook and Google.

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