Ad tech company Adform recently released a deep analysis after uncovering a new fraud scheme dubbed “HyphBot.” HyphBot has scammed advertisers and pubs every single day since its launch. Thousands of fake domains and millions of fake URLs were created by fraudsters through a file known as sortedUnixWords.txt. Adform researchers believe the bot has been actively running since August, if not earlier.
The suspicious domain name patterns were noticed by Adform after raking through illegitimate site traffic detected by ads.txt. Notably, two specific patterns showed up so frequently, prompting Adform to monitor HyphBot activity. The first pattern is a domain name followed by several non related words, i.e. forbes.com/red-throated_mid-atlantic. The second HyphBot pattern with a domain followed by random numbers and letters i.e. forbes.com/4qr56. By developing highly advanced filters through their platform, Adform can quantify the amount of requests from these unusual URL patterns and determine which premium publishers are being affected. They are continuing to investigate where and who this Bot was created by and how to shut it down. Adform has kept the details of their findings secret until now. This is so the fraudsters aren’t able to hack into Adform’s filters designed to detect and reverse what Hyphbot is doing.
Many industry leaders – including ourselves – agree that making the digital advertising industry more transparent is necessary for the future of digital advertising. Adform took a step in the right direction by informing everyone of their findings so quickly. Adform hopes that by gathering this information and exposing this scam, a sense of urgency will buzz throughout the industry.
People should be actively seeking the next steps to combat fraud as an industry. We recently discussed domain spoofing and the power moves JPMorgan made to combat ad fraud. Ads.txt was rolled out just a week prior, and many were taking a deeper look at what ads.txt could do to protect companies from scams.
Adform is a supporter of ads.txt. By releasing this data on HyphBot, they hope more people will educate themselves on ads.txt and understand its capabilities. If major players such as eBay and Walmart follow Google’s lead and adopt ads.txt, many more companies will follow suit. It has to start somewhere. We hope that leaders do what they do best – step up and set the tone in an effort to make the digital advertising world stronger and more transparent.