Providers Shore Up Anti-Fraud Defenses

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Marketing providers look to stamp out online fraud.
Marketing providers look to stamp out online fraud.

Recent weeks have produced a flurry of anti-fraud activity among SaaS marketing tool providers.Innovid announced a partnership with DoubleVerify to provide its clients with a system to block video ads that fail to meet certain sets of security criteria. Email intelligence company Return Path and consumer online security provider Kaspersky Lab agreed to share their threat data and security analytics files in an effort to combat phishing attacks and other online abuses.And programmatic ad software company Pixalate launched a technology that aims to bring real-time fraud blocking to real-time buying.

Is there some rhyme or reason for this sudden laser-focus on fraud detection? Most assuredly, according to Pixalate CEO Jalal Nasir, a former member of Amazon's fraud team who started up his company a year and a half ago when he saw how the expansion of real-time buying (RTB) had flung wide the doors for fraudsters looking to con online advertisers.

“The introduction of RTB has turned digital marketing into the Wild West,” says Nasir, who spent most of his career until now combating hackers buying goods online with stolen credit card numbers. “Nobody has any control. When this became rampant on search, Google and Microsoft had control of all the data within their spheres. They had a 360-degree picture of how [the fraud] happened.But marketers signing contracts with ad exchanges and DSPs don't know where the fraudulent inventory is coming from.

In a study of its clients' activities that it release late last year, Integral Ad Science found that some 25% of impressions from exchanges, 30% from bid requests, and 40% from in-banner videos were fraudulent. The company estimated that as much as 15% of all ads served online are bogus.

Fraudsters have also stepped up their assault on email inboxes, leading to the Return Path's alliance with Kaspersky against the onslaught. “Spammers have figured out a way to keep from completely being blocked,” says Georges Smine, GM of mailbox provider services at Return Path. “Spam in general is relatively under control, but the game keeps getting escalated. It's gotten cheaper for spammers and phishers to operate their scams. Botnets have the sophistication of being able to transit through the networks , so folks like us are trying to keep a leg up on them.”

Ease of entry into the online underworld, Nasir says, is a big reason why his company exists and others are ramping up their stores of digital anti-fraud weaponry. “It's so easy to download botware on your computer,” he says. “Just download it from an open source website and get it up and running in an hour.”

Pixalate's solution uses what Nasir calls “smart ad tags” to prevent a programmed ad from serving to a site that's deemed fraudulent.“This is a big threat to the marketing industry that the marketing industry must defend against,” he says.“because regulation can be helpful,but it can also be harmful.”

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