Category Archives: News

The massive Russian cybercrime operation stealing millions from advertisers – Inside ‘Methbot’

Security experts have uncovered what appears to be the biggest and most profitable advertising fraud scheme known to date.

In a report released Tuesday, cybersecurity firm White Ops mapped out a massive operation through which Russian cybercriminals are stealing millions of dollars from publishers and advertisers in the form of fake video views.

Nicknamed “Methbot” for the frequent references to the drug in its code, the ongoing scheme involves an army of bots whose sole purpose is to watch as many as 300 million video ads per day, thus tricking brand advertisers into paying millions of dollars for fake views.

The company believes it to be the work of a ring of Russian hackers, who researchers say have netted upwards of $180 million in profits since launching the operation in September.

While employing automated users to scam ads is nothing new — it’s the foundation of the multibillion-dollar ad fraud industry — the company says the staggering scale and technical intricacy at play here are unprecedented.

“This is an attack perpetrated against the entire industry,” says White Ops CEO Michael Tiffany. “It was robbing both advertisers and publishers, and it was operating at a level of sophistication that’s just unheard of.”

How it works

The whole operation takes place within a sort of Potemkin Village version of the internet located entirely within the bounds of Methbot’s servers.

To populate it, the hackers took over more than half a billion IP addresses — unique strings of characters designed to identify web users — from two major registries and broke them into chunks, which were then assigned to various internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon.

Doing so created the illusion that each of these millions of bots were real web surfers spread across America rather than programs operating out of one of two centralized data centers in Amsterdam and Dallas.

The perpetrators also built custom software designed to make the bots appear convincingly human — they mimicked clicks and cursor movements; installed fake cookies that indicated demographics, online browsing histories and other targetable traits; and even gave them fraudulent social network credentials that made it appear as if they were logged into Facebook or other social media accounts (though no such accounts actually existed).

This elaborate operation goes far and beyond that of your average ad fraudster, Tiffany says. In a typical operation of this kind, bots latch onto the addresses of actual people through malware so that hackers don’t have to go through the trouble of creating identities out of whole cloth.

“We’ve never seen anything like that before,” Tiffany says. “It’s just astonishing.”

But spawning this army of robo-users was just one piece of the puzzle; the cybercriminals also generated more than 6,000 imitation sites designed to resemble major outlets across the web.

These include fake versions of publishers like CNN, the New York Times, BuzzFeed and Mashable; platforms like Facebook, Yahoo and Quora; and even some brand websites like those of Air France and Pokémon.

The fake sites allowed the thieves to take advantage of a common form of arbitrage in the ad tech industry in which unsold ad space is bought from an outlet then resold at a higher price. The criminals would pretend to be reselling space on, say, CNN’s website through an automated ad exchange but then instead direct the ad to their shell version of the site that nobody could actually see.

There, the brand would unwittingly pay to have its video ad viewed solely by the millions of bots assigned to visit each of these sites.

As a whole, the operation racked up between 200 to 300 million views per day and bilked advertisers and media companies out of $3 million to $5 million in revenue.

Such intricate attention to detail might seem excessive for a scam that’s already considered to have the lowest risk and highest reward of any form of cyber crime.

But the whole plan was put in place in service of making the machine as profitable as possible at every level. Bots imbued with a targetable profile and brand-name outlets are worth much more to advertisers than unknown visitors to a no-name webpage, and video is the most expensive form of online advertising.

“By using these very sophisticated mechanisms to hack some of the architectural systems of the internet, they were then able to unlock much greater profit potential than other operations usually have,” Tiffany said.

What’s next

White Ops, which specializes in ad fraud detection, first took notice of the operation in October, when its system picked up on some of the bots. The rest of the scheme unraveled from there.

“We had this one thread to pull on, and then as we pulled on it, we uncovered layer upon layer upon layer of complex forgeries,” Tiffany said.

Now that the report is out, White Ops is releasing a full list of fake addresses and domains so that ad networks and other fraud detection firms can block accordingly. It is also working with U.S. law enforcement authorities to try to track down the parties responsible.

While the massive scale of Methbot might make other ad fraudsters seem like small-timers in comparison, ad fraud as a whole remains a huge headache for the advertising industry. A research report from an advertiser trade group last year predicted that it could cost digital advertisers around $7.2 billion this year alone.

Tiffany says it’s entirely possible that ad fraud rings of comparable scope are currently operating undetected. The murky nature of the crime makes it uniquely hard to suss out.

“It hardy ever leaves traces of the crime behind,” he says. “It’s such an extraordinarily successful form of theft because nothing goes missing.”

Joy for Your Job by Meir Ezra

When you do what you love, your odds of success are much greater. You have more passion, more energy and more fun.

When you enjoy your job, you look forward to Monday mornings. Your days fly by. You make steady progress.

Work enjoyment is contagious. The people around you get along better. They follow your example and get more done.

So what if you do not enjoy your work?

 

The Parts You Hate

Every job, every profession and every business includes distasteful aspects–the complicated, boring, dirty or difficult parts of the job. Yet conquering these difficulties, and enjoying your job anyway, is how you succeed.

To get rich, simply find and perform an important job most people can’t do or won’t do. For example, drilling tiny holes in people’s teeth or performing surgery on people’s stomachs is very tough work, but it makes dentists and physicians wealthy.

If you have no love for your job, the difficult parts become unbearable. You hate going to work. You hate the people. You want to quit.

When you love the purpose and results of your work, the difficulties are easier to deal with. You take pride in conquering them. The benefits of the job outweigh the liabilities.

Five Steps to Getting More Enjoyment from Your Work

  1. List what you like about your work. What makes it worth doing? For example, working with good people, improving your customers’ lives, doing a technically perfect job and so on.
  1. List what you dislike about your work. What makes you want to quit? For example, working long hours, customer complaints, health risks, mean bosses and so on.
  1. List your purposes for this job. Why did you start? What is the big picture? Why do you do this work?
  1. Review and add items to the above three lists. Continue until you feel more joy for your work. When the lists are balanced, your passion takes over and you love your job.
  1. If the four steps above do not help you find joy for your job, you need to make some changes.

Change your routine. Work with different people. Do a better job. Transfer to a different department. Change directions, get a new job or learn a new profession.

Change a negative attitude. Learn to accept help. Stop cutting corners.

Keep making changes until the joy of your job is greater than its difficulties.

If you own a business that gives you no joy, change it as well. Make it into an operation that makes you happy. Replace difficult employees. Delegate more responsibilities. Improve the quality of the service or product. Make the operation bigger or smaller. Sell out and start another business.

Go!

When you love your work, you recognize opportunities and make better decisions. You know where you are going. You are on the road to your major, significant success.

Take your foot off the brakes and accelerate!

Daly and Associates Hong Kong Administrative: Media & News

Our focus on matters concerning important administrative law matters, particularly those concerning human rights, mean that many of of cases have far reaching implications. We will strive to provide important news concerning our work on this page.

October 2014 ‘Refugee and Non-Refoulement Law in Hong Kong: The Introduction of the Unified Screening Mechanism’

Mark Daly’s article, ‘Refugee and Non-Refoulement Law in Hong Kong: The Introduction of the Unified Screening Mechanism’, appeared in the October 2014 edition of ‘Hong Kong Lawyer’.  In this article, Daly contends that whilst the Unified Screening Mechanism was a welcome development that marks the beginning of a new area of law in Hong Kong, it is not without issue.  The main issue being that the system was cobbled together as a piecemeal reaction to litigation and now places an undue burden on the courts to provide guidance and overturn flawed decisions.

9/9/2013 – ‘Hong Kong’s New Asylum System Harder to Exploit’ SCMP

The Immigration Department has claimed the new Unified Screening Mechanism set to take place at the end of 2013 will plug the loopholes in the process.  The Department further claimed that the 28 day contentious deadline for submitting supporting documents would not be extended.  In this article, Mark Daly discusses his concerns about whether or not all three claims would be statutory under the new system.

28 February 2014 – ‘Foreign Domestic Workers Across Asia Rise Up Over Exploitation’ – The Guardian

An article regarding foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong speaking out about their working conditions and being treated like second class citizens appeared in ‘The Guardian’.  In this article, Mr Mark Daly states that Hong Kong is slow to change the attitude towards a multicultural society based on respect and dignity.

27/7/13 the Pearl Report – ‘Life in Limbo’

The Pearl Report recently featured a program on the plight of refugees in Hong Kong.  The Report looked at, in particular, the system of ISS and the right to work.  Mr Mark Daly, the firm’s principal, is featured in this program.

27/6/2013 Hong Kong Government finally introduces a unified system to screen asylum / non-refoulement claims in Hong Kong

3 months after the judgment in C & Ors, the Hong Kong Government has decided to introduce to the Legislative Council, on 2 July 2013, its intention to expand the current scope of the torture claim screening mechanism to include assessments of persecution risks and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (“CIDTP”) risks. We have advocated for this unified system for many years and are pleased to learn of the Government’s intention, despite its serious delays in making this decision. The Security Bureau just published a paper in respect of the new unified screening mechanism (see link). We note that the paper provides very few details about the scheme and will reserve our comments when they are unveiled.

25/3/2013 BBC – “Hong Kong court denies domestic worker residency”

“Hong Kong’s top court has ruled that domestic workers are not eligible to apply for permanent residency, ending a two-year battle that has split opinion.”

Training Centers of North American Training Group

Training Centers Include:

  • Private and Secure URL
  • Branded site with your company logo and wording
  • Your company Anti-Fraud Training Guidelines created within courses
  • Your company SIU Guidelines/Manuals
  • Test, Quizzes or Completion of slides to pass
  • Customized Certificates of Completion
  • Administration / Compliance Tracking
  • Access to reports and progress of each employee

NATG will create customized On-Line Training Centers to fit your company needs.

NATG offers a variety of online training centers, from fully-branded custom solutions to simpler solution on-line training centers. We know that “one size does not fit all” and we’ve designed our training centers with the flexibility you need.

NATG specializes in Online training centers that are a hosted, high-value, branded, customized online learning solution providing organizations, large or small, with a robust Learning Management System (LMS) at a fraction of the cost of other systems.

Our solutions allow you to offer employees an “Online Training Center” uniquely designed with the look and feel of your organization. It’s populated with only the courses that are meaningful to your company. Courses can be organized into catalogs designed by department, course category, job function, location – the options are unlimited. NATG offers the client the ability to add your company’s training documents to the site for all employees to view and check off on. We will customize your Certificates of Completion.

Outsource your Insurance Anti-Fraud Training to NATG while still maintaining complete control of your integral employee’s fraud training. More and more states are mandating these training regulations. If you do not provide the annual and new hire training to your staff, you may be in violation and receive penalties and fines.

Management and Reporting

Management is the central element of a Learning Management System. NATG’s Training Centers includes many easy-to-use administrative features and over 20 standard reports that allow you to keep track of students individually, or monitor entire departments quickly and easily! Our Online Training Centers also offer multiple levels of authority along with controlled access to your courses with user ID, password, and date range to ensure security.

NATG offers the client the ability to add your company’s training documents to the site for all employees to view and check off on. We will customize your Certificates of Completion.

NATG offers annual corporate subscriptions to this service. Please contact with any questions at 1-888-884-6284 or email us at info@fraudeducation.com