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