Bots: The Mafia Of The Internet

Michael Tiffany, CEO and co-founder, WhiteOps, gave everyone at the IAB Advertising Technology Marketplace event a lesson on bot traffic. He said that current bot detection techniques are misleading because if you know how to detect fraud, then you're going to detect fraud. "So it looks and feels like you're winning, but you're missing the adapters," he said. "We're not dealing with casual criminals right now."

He went on to say that if a "fraudster" - his term for the bad guys - is good enough to get "any sort of check right now," then that check is worth a million dollars.
The goal, he said (and nobody is arguing), is 100% human impressions. He stressed how bad it is for everyone involved that the wrong people are getting money.

"I'm hoping we can align interests about eliminating fraud," he asked of the audience. He wants to see the money get cut off from "organized crime."

Really, if you didn't know the context of this event, you'd think Tiffany was talking about the mafia.

Someone from the audience asked, "How do these guys recruit? Where are their offices?"

Tiffany started his answer by noting that cyber crime is much more sophisticated today than it ever has been. He said that, in the past, "if you wanted to be a cyber criminal, you needed to be a badass programmer," among other things. "The crossover population of people that could write the code and get away with the crime was low."

Today, though, he argued that the "separation of skills" is less common. And he blamed the social nature of the Internet today.

He pointed out how someone can establish a personality online under a pseudonym. The steps that today's cyber criminals can take to not only learn how to commit the crimes, but to carry them out as well, are not easily traceable by police, he said.

"So to get into this, you're going to have to learn how to speak Russian," he answered, finally getting to the question from the audience. "And you're definitly going to need to change your locale. One of the reasons this is such a hard problem for law enforcement is because the 'bosses' are located in jurisdictions where you can't motivate law enforcement to go catch [them] - if you can even figure out who they are."

Tiffany then gave the audience a hard-to-swallow dose of reality: "We aren't going to be able to catch these bad guys. Even if we could, new guys would come in." Yikes.

So instead of "catching" the fraudsters, Tiffany again went back to what really matters - the money. He repeated that the industry as a whole needs to "direct the money elsewhere." He warned that "it's the only solution that's sustainable.



1 comment about "Bots: The Mafia Of The Internet".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, July 16, 2013 at 4:36 a.m.

    Strange perspective on bots: in my experience these are usually nothing to do with crime, so I assume the author is talking about a little subset such as fake clicking on adverts? Our clients see many more bots owned by legal businesses such as search engines and competitor sites - the latter are attempting to monitor stock levels and/or set relative prices. We, of course, do our best to block them from our analytics, but in the past I have known marketers to make bad decisions when bot activity distorted e.g. A:B testing.

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