Growing up, one of my favorite games with friends was cops and robbers, chasing each other around the backyard as we pretended to be the police officers (and criminals) we watched on TV and in the movies. Now I’m privileged to lead an organization whose mission is fighting the real criminals who profit from fraud, piracy, malware, and lack of transparency in digital advertising.
Unlike the games of our youth, however, the real world fight against wrongdoers isn’t resolved by an imaginary car chase and squirt gun battle before being called to dinner. Finding and eliminating bad actors from the digital advertising supply chain takes time, dedication, and engagement from leaders across every part of our industry.
Today some of that hard work paid off, as the industry came together to address the massive “Methbot” fraud operation exposed by White Ops, an active TAG participant and one of the inaugural group of companies to receive a TAG Certified Against Fraud Seal last month. (Coverage of the fraud attack and our joint efforts to address it can be found on Reuters, CNBC, Variety, IDG News, AdExchanger, Marketing Land, and a wide range of other outlets.)
Working together, White Ops and TAG activated the information-sharing infrastructure built by TAG over the last two years, and we organized an emergency briefing on the fraud operation for more than 170 anti-fraud executives at the leading companies in our industry, so companies could evaluate and respond to this threat in near real time. We also expedited our review of the IP addresses involved for inclusion on TAG’s blacklist of data center IP addresses that are significant sources of fraud.
Given the scope of this threat, however, there’s still much that needs to be done, so I wanted to share some important next steps and further resources for you to take any additional actions necessary to protect your company, your partners, and your customers.
In particular, you may find these resources and tools helpful:
- You can access a summary of the MethBot threat and related white paper at http://www.whiteops.com/methbot.
- You can access the full list of IP addresses known to belong to Methbot for advertisers, their agencies, and platforms to block at http://methbot.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/IPs.txt. Blocking these IP addresses is believed to be the fastest way to shut down the MethBot operation’s ability to monetize.
- If you have threat information related to the MethBot that you would like to share with White Ops, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Methbot operation shows how far we have to go, it also validates the broader framework for TAG’s Certified Against Fraud Program. As an industry, we will only be able to end ad fraud when we can assure our counterparties are legitimate companies (through TAG Registration), track payments for every ad in the ecosystem (through Payment ID), share information on known sources of fraudulent traffic (through shared domain and data center IP blacklists), work closely with law enforcement (including our relationships at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security), and respond quickly to new and emerging threats (through our network of TAG Compliance Officers).
Happily, most of those systems have been put in place, and most of the largest companies in our industry – from agencies to brands, and publishers to intermediaries – have agreed to adopt them and push for their partners to do so.
Please feel free to contact Team TAG with any additional questions that you might have, and thank you for your efforts in addressing this threat.