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FBI and Google take down multimillion-dollar ad fraud operation

FBI and Google take down multimillion-dollar ad fraud operation
[Animation: Flickr user Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); WikimediaImages/Pixabay]

The Department of Justice yesterday unsealed a 13-count indictment against eight people facing multiple charges for operating a digital advertising fraud operation known as “3ve,” that allegedly stole tens of millions of dollars from the the advertising industry.

“As alleged in court filings, the defendants in this case used sophisticated computer programming and infrastructure around the world to exploit the digital advertising industry through fraud,” United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement. “This case sends a powerful message that this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will use all our available resources to target and dismantle these costly schemes and bring their perpetrators to justice, wherever they are.”

According to BuzzFeed News, the investigation stemmed from a coordinated partnership between Google and bot-detection firm White Ops, which then teamed with about 15 other tech companies, including Adobe, the Trade Desk, Amazon Advertising, and Oath, as well as security firms Malwarebytes, ESET, Proofpoint, Symantec, F-Secure, McAfee, and Trend Micro.

At its peak, 3ve involved about 1.7 million infected PCs, roughly 5,000 counterfeit publisher websites, and over 60,000 accounts with digital advertising companies to help fraudsters receive ad placements and get paid, all with a goal to siphon off as much money from the $250 billion digital ad industry.

This is a major development in the pursuit and prosecution of modern ad fraud, but also a drop in the bucket considering an estimated $19 billion will be stolen by ad fraud this year alone.

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