CTV Fraud Made Headlines Again, But It Shouldn’t Have – Forbes

https%3A%2F%2Fspecials ProxyEgg CTV Fraud Made Headlines Again, But It Shouldn’t Have - Forbes

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal covered a “New Ad Fraud Scheme” in CTV called StreamScam. Dozens of other outlets covered the same story with the headline “Largest CTV Ad Fraud Exposed.” And the original press release: “Oracle Exposes Largest CTV Ad Fraud Operation Ever

But as a fraud researcher studying fraud in digital marketing, I can tell you it’s neither new, nor “Largest CTV Ad Fraud Operation Ever.” Just in 2020 alone, four other CTV fraud schemes have been documented and disclosed — DiCaprio, Monarch, IceBucket, and MultiTerra — each of those called themselves “largest ever.” And there is a lot more fraud in CTV that has not yet been “discovered” and documented.

Why is there so much fraud in CTV?

It’s the same reason that ad fraud plagued every other format of digital ads before it, from display ads to video ads, to ads in mobile and mobile apps. As ad spending shifted from format to format, bad guys also followed the money. When video ads had 10X higher prices than display ads, fraudsters focused their bots on creating fake video ad inventory so they could make more money. When mobile ads had higher CPMs because of purported location targeting, fraudsters used fake mobile apps and fake devices to create fake mobile ad inventory to sell at higher prices.

Now, with CTV prices being 10X higher than other digital ad formats (benchmark slide above), it has become the primary target of scamsters, unsurprisingly. And the virus pandemic has provided additional cover for an increase in CTV fraud, because everyone believes humans staying at home stream more. Humans DO stream more and there’s even parallel streaming in every household, when every man, woman, child, and pet are streaming videos on their own devices. But for most living organisms, they can only watch one video stream at a time. Also, humans spend a lot of time binging video on Netflix, a service without any ads, so they have less time to stream video on other ad supported services. So while a dramatic increase in streaming is plausible, it’s provided a convenient cover for an even greater rise in CTV ad fraud.

MORE FOR YOU

CTV Fraud is Not New, Just Larger

CTV fraud is not new, it has just grown a lot larger. More than two years ago, obvious fraud in CTV was documented — for example, simple errors where fraudsters mis-spelled “Rokku,” left out the fake device name, or used lists of device names that were too old to support streaming. Yeah, it’s that simple; they just have to declare the device to be a streaming stick. (Fraudsters did the same previously by declaring their bots to be normal browsers or mobile apps.) In CTV, because the fraud detection is far more

limited, most detection tech cannot even verify the name of the device completely; they mostly rely on declared values, which is why CTV fraud is so simple to commit. But if you looked at the analytics data, you can already see the fraud happening. Take for instance the number of ads served to IP addresses. The quantities should not be identical across many IP addresses, because humans don’t coordinate with each other to watch exactly the same about of streaming TV to generate exactly the same number of ad impressions across large numbers of IP addresses.

How is CTV Fraud Committed? The Same As It’s Always Been

Details from yesterday’s report, and the others from earlier in 2020, all confirm that the same techniques are still used to successfully commit CTV ad fraud. “With StreamScam, swindlers used a practice known as “spoofing” to trick advertisers into believing their ads were running on legitimate apps and devices. Oracle said it uncovered StreamScam after noticing irregularities in the measurement data such as ad requests coming from older Apple TV models running on new iOS software that they couldn’t support. StreamScam involved 28.8 million fabricated household IP addresses, and spoofed about 3,600 apps and 3,400 internet-connected TV device models.” Let me recap: 1) bots “pretending to be legitimate apps and devices,” 2) bouncing the data center traffic through residential proxies to make it appear to come from “28.8 million” households, and 3) rotating among “3,600 apps and 3,400 internet-connected TV device models” to disguise the fraud. Furthermore, fake apps can be installed on real Roku streaming devices and used to stream ads continuously in the background, as long as the Roku devices remain on and connected to the Internet, as demonstrated by this security researcher “Attacking Roku sticks for fun and profit.” And I bet you never heard of screensaver apps for Roku devices which stream CTV ads continuously when no one but the pets are watching the TVs.

What Should Marketers Do When Buying CTV Ads?

The answer to this question is also the same as it’s always been. 1) Use some common sense. 2) Buy from “well-lit” neighborhoods. 3) Get detailed data so you can check for yourself. If you’ve never heard of an app, and it’s selling enormous numbers of CTV ads, it’s probably not real; look into it. If you buy from the vast wasteland of unknown inventory, you’re probably getting vast numbers of faked CTV streams. Buy as much inventory as possible directly from the CTV streaming publishers themselves. Even buying direct from Roku exposes you to the enormous number of Roku apps — some suspect, some real — in the Roku channel store. And finally, insist on detailed data like how many ads ran on which specific CTV apps, by day, or by hour if possible. Then you can check for yourself for obvious CTV fraud. You can avoid the fraud by turning off specific streaming apps that appear to be committing fraud.

If you’ve done all of the above and still need help, look for a partner that can help you and show you the data (not a black box CTV fraud detection tech company).

Further reading: How A Good Partner Can Save You From Connected TV Fraud

Source of this news: https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustinefou/2020/12/18/ctv-fraud-made-headlines-again-but-it-shouldnt-have/

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