CTV fraudsters turn to $20m audio ad scam

CTV fraudsters turn to $20m audio ad scam

Connected TV fraudsters have turned their focus to digital audio scams, with more than $20m of advertisers’ revenue stolen.

DoubleVerify, the media measurement software company, has uncovered what it claims to be the first large-scale fraud to be found in the digital audio sector.

Named “BeatSting”, the ad-impression fraud scheme is responsible for costing unprotected advertisers up to $1m per month, with more than $20m lost over the last three years.

BeatString is part of a bigger family of server-side ad insertion fraud schemes that rose to prominence in 2019 and initially targeted connected TV (CTV) inventory. DoubleVerify warned that the attack may “migrate fully back to CTV” in the future.

Fraudsters make money by “spoofing” IP addresses and audio apps and creating fake servers to falsify audio ad requests, making it seem like the apps have users and ad inventory. These requests then go out to supply-side platforms and ad exchanges and become available for bids from online advertisers.

The DV Fraud Lab identified over 60 apps tied to the scheme associated with three main publishers. The apps carried names which appear to be audio interests, such as com.digitalsquadra.rockmusic, video.gaes.radio and com.snkdigital.bakaradio.

Using machine learning, the DV Fraud Lab team detected an abnormally high volume of traffic with anomalous patterns across the spoofed apps, as well as some apps not being updated for “a long time” and having a high volume of traffic despite not containing relevant audio content.

Another scheme in the BeatSting family, LeoTerra, began trying to hide its behaviour by targeting “internet of things” devices, such as smart refrigerators, during the first half of 2022.

The true scale of ad fraud across the global online media system is largely still unknown, as there are widely varying levels of fraud detection measures in place and buying systems are not standardised around the world.

Connected TV has become a particularly attractive target for ad fraudsters in recent years because CTV ads attract high prices due to having smaller but attractive audiences that can be targeted and served with personalised messaging.

Dr Augustine Fou, a prominent ad fraud researcher and founder of Fou Analytics, told The Media Leader in December that CTV ad fraud measurement is generally inadequate.

He said: “No one, including me, can reliably detect the fraud. We have to wait till the bad guys get sloppy or too greedy.”

He added: “The only way advertisers can buy CTV ads that are even plausibly real is to buy from real media sellers directly, not from intermediaries of any kind.

“Every intermediary has the incentive to look the other way and let the fraud happen because there’s simply too much money to be made, as advertisers frantically and blindly shift more money into CTV ads.”

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.

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