The UK’s Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) – the independent body that defines best practice and standards for online ad trading – has published a report describing the different types of potential online ad fraudulent activity. Providing transparency and risk reduction within the realm of digital ad fraud has been a key element of JICWEBS aim to promote trusted digital ad trading
“To address such a complex topic as online ad fraud, first requires understanding what types of activity can enable it,” said JICWEBS’ Chairman Richard Foan.
“Even though the taxonomy – written by our Anti-Fraud Technical Group comprising 30 businesses* – identifies 16 different malicious (possibly fraudulent) and non-malicious sources of non-human traffic, it isn’t an exhaustive list. However, it is another important step in reducing the risk of online ad fraud.”
Illegitimate and non-human traffic sources:
- Hijacked Device – a user’s device, whether that is browser, phone, app, or other system, that has been modified to call html or make ad requests that is not under the control of a user and made without the user’s consent
- Crawler masquerading as a legitimate user – a browser, server or app that makes page load calls automatically without declaring themselves as a robot, instead of declaring a valid regular browser or app user agent where there is no real human user.
- Data-centre traffic – traffic originating from servers in data-centres, rather than residential or corporate networks, where the ad is not rendered in a user’s device.
Non-traditional / other traffic:
- AdWare traffic – a device where a user is present and addition html or ad calls are made by the AdWare independently of the content being requested by the user
- Proxy traffic – traffic that is routed through an intermediary proxy device or network where the ad is rendered in a user’s device where there is a real human user.
- Non-human User-Agent header- a device that declares a User-Agent header not normally associated with human activity.
- Browser pre-rendering- a device that makes html or ad calls prior to the rendering of the resulting assets or web-page to an end user.
- Ad Tag Hijacking - Taking ad tags from a publisher’s site and putting them on to another site without the publisher knowledge.
- Creative Hijacking - Copying the creative tags from a legitimately served ad so they can be rendered at a later time, without the consent of the advertiser or their contracted service provider.
Site or Impression attributes:
- Auto-refresh – a page or ad unit that calls for a new rendered asset more than once.
- Ad Density – the number of ads or percentage of the page / app covered by ads
- Hidden Ads – ads placed in such a manner that they cannot ever be viewable e.g., stacked ads, ads clipped by iframes, zero opacity ads
- Misappropriated Content – site contains copyrighted content, or links to content, (from another, unaffiliated entity) without the rights to monetize such content
- Falsely represented – sites or impressions represented as one thing that are another, including context - HTML or ad calls that attempt to represent another site or device or other attribute, other than the actual placement. Alternatively, a human user that is offered payment or benefits to view or interact with ads who is represented as not being offered payment or benefit
- Contains malware – malware is found on the site, or the app contains malware.
Ad Creative / Other
- Cookie-stuffing – The process by which a client is provided with cookies from other domains as if the user had visited those other domains.
Bob Wootton, former director of media and advertising at ISBA, the voice of British Advertisers, said: "Advertising is an ever-evolving ecosystem especially within the digital field. The fraudsters are also looking to be a step ahead of the game so this guidance will be updated as and when necessary. The objective is to restore the trust which advertisers expect across all the media channels they use, notably online, and thus restore their confidence in the channel."
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