Understanding Connected TV Advertising Fraud & What We Can Do About It

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Dan Lowden, CMO, White Ops

It’s an intuitive progression: fraud follows money. Wherever there’s a new marketplace taking root, fraudsters will swoop in and try to capture a chunk of that cash before they get found out and evicted. In digital advertising, those fraudsters often use sophisticated bots to carry out that theft. These sophisticated bots live on consumer devices, looking like humans, and behaving like humans when they visit websites, click on ads, fill out forms, take over accounts, and commit payment fraud. 

The CTV marketplace is a new and lucrative place for fraudsters to operate. This market is set to surpass $10B by 2021, and has grown so quickly that streaming services and technology partners are trying to keep up with anti-fraud measures.  

Understanding What CTV Advertising Fraud Is and What It Looks Like

The CTV ecosystem includes a variety of device manufacturers, ad platforms, server-side ad insertion (SSAI) services, and content stores that all come together. This complex world, along with industry standards still being developed, means attackers can employ fraud techniques through device impersonation without being detected. 

Device impersonation – also known as device spoofing – is one of the most common types of CTV fraud. Using this tactic, ad requests are faked to look like they’re coming from CTV devices, but the ads served aren’t shown on CTV devices or real people. Instead, sophisticated bots are “shown” the ads. The advertiser would never know unless they have the right bot mitigation solutions in place. Spend is wasted on ads that are never seen by anyone.  

Fraudsters can impersonate whole devices – like Roku, Smart TVs, Chromecast, Fire TV, and others – and their apps. CTV-geared ads on these devices are delivered using SSAI on an app-by-app basis. SSAI fraud—such as the recent discovery of ICEBUCKET—is hard to detect, because all of the requests seem as though they’re coming from a single IP address.  

Combating CTV Advertising Fraud

Despite the increase of fraudulent activity targeting this market, there are a number of tactics advertisers can put in place to protect themselves while ensuring their exposure is minimal and their spend is directed where it’s intended: 

Standardization

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has put out guidelines and recommendations, such as app-ads.txt. This offers a way for publishers to give specific permissions to who can sell their ad space. With app-ads.txt, buyers can ensure they’re working with only verified and legitimate sellers. The IAB has also released guidelines, the Identifier for Advertising (IFA) series, as another way for all participants in the CTV space to make sure that they’re coming from a place of education and preparation. 

Collaboration

Industry players must come together to build standards across the CTV ecosystem. They should also come together to pool their resources and share successes and failures – otherwise known as a collective protection approach to fighting against fraudsters. This concept means leveraging findings from one fraudulent activity found within an organization and then implementing protection solutions systemwide to other areas of the business who may be experiencing similar fraudulent behaviors. Active and consistent participation in industry collaboration allows advertisers and publishers to stay on the forefront of new developments in the ongoing fight against ad fraud.  

Implement a comprehensive fraud detection solution

Organizations have traditionally relied on in-house teams to combat fraud and hackers. However, as bots become more sophisticated and attacks become more frequent, many in-house solutions are struggling to keep up. Having a bot mitigation partner with a global view to stop threats and attacks can significantly reduce the cost, and impact of a million bots trying to commit ad fraud. 

Teams should discuss options to bring in third-party vendors to help manage new challenges. This not only enforces a new bottom line for the company’s security measures, it significantly reduces their costs. A combination of in-house defenses and a partnership with a bot mitigation provider that detects fraud pre-bid is the best layered protection against cybercriminal activity.  

Understanding the Advertising Fraud Problem and Working Toward A Solution 

The only way to truly combat CTV advertising fraud is by understanding the nuances of today’s fragmented landscape and proactively protecting themselves from bad actors and sophisticated bot attacks by using industry best practices and educated preparation. What worked six months ago may not work now. The only way we can fight back against a more sophisticated opponent is through knowledge-sharing and collective protection, both formal and informal. This will allow the CTV ecosystem to thrive as it continues to grow. With the market still in its infancy, now is the time for CTV platforms to take the necessary steps to ensure it remains fraud free. 


About the Author: Dan has more than 20 years of executive-level experience in technology marketing. He has successfully driven brand leadership and demand generation for large enterprises and fast-growth companies in cyber security, wireless services, and mobile computing. Previously in the cyber security space, Dan was CMO at Digital Shadows, CMO at Invincea (acquired by Sophos), and VP of Marketing at vArmour. Previous roles also include VP of Marketing at Digby (acquired by Phunware), VP of Marketing and Business Development at Wayport (Acquired by AT&T), and marketing leadership roles at IBM ThinkPad, NEC Technologies and Sharp Electronics. Dan holds an MBA in International Business from Rutgers Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science from Rider University.

 

1 Comment

  1. Robin Cohn on at 1:27 PM

    Dan, so timely. Thanks.