The New York Times | By Vindu Goel | December 20, 2016
In a twist on the peddling of fake news to real people, researchers say a Russian cyberforgery ring has created more than half a million fake internet users and 250,000 fake websites to trick advertisers into collectively paying as much as $5 million a day for video ads that are never watched.
The fraud, which began in September and is still going on, represents a new level of sophistication among criminals who seek to profit by using bots — computer programs that pretend to be people — to cheat advertisers.
“We think that nothing has approached this operation in terms of profitability,” said Michael Tiffany, a founder and the chief executive of White Ops, the ad-focused computer security firm that publicly disclosed the fraud in a report on Tuesday. “Our adversaries are bringing whole new levels of innovation to ad fraud.” The thieves impersonated more than 6,100 news and content publishers, stealing advertising revenue that marketers intended to run on those sites, White Ops said.