Digital ad fraud has lately gained mainstream awareness, and many marketers at leading brands now realize the threat that fraud poses to their ability to track online advertising.
A Wall Street Journal piece last week chronicled concerns at organizations like L'Oreal, General Motors and Verizon Communications. Fortunately for marketers, as the bad guys are shifting their sights to digital advertising, so too are the information security gurus.
Michael Tiffany and Dan Kaminsky are well-regarded in the IT security community and have long histories tracking online criminal behavior. The two took advanced fraud-detection technology they had designed for banks and trained it on the online advertising space.
Their technology forms the bedrock of White Ops, a company that Tiffany said is on a “messianic mission” to help the ad world understand that fraud is "not a passive problem at the edges" of the industry. According to the firm's estimates, last year criminals made off with $6 billion from online fraud in the United States alone.
Putting the brakes to that kind of criminal activity is a bold mission for two security geeks who started with no contacts in the advertising space. But with some early attention from the right people placed within the industry – including Jon Bond of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners fame, who now serves on White Ops' board, and Erica Bartman, formerly of AdWeek, who works as the firm's chief revenue officer – has helped propel White Ops into the mix with a number of large brands, including GE.
AdExchanger talked with Tiffany, White Ops' CEO, to discuss the technology and why digital advertising fraud matters not just to everyone involved in the advertising world, but also to the long-term viability of the Internet.
AdExchanger: Why are criminals turning to ad fraud instead of attacking financial institutions?
MICHAEL TIFFANY: Because ad fraud is, in some ways, a better crime. No matter how stealthy your tech stack is, or how awesome your root kit is, once you steal the money, someone tends to notice that it’s missing. When you succeed at ad fraud, by its very nature, no one notices. If it succeeds, it completely flies under the radar. You just collect money. You don’t need money mules for sending anything via Western Union. The people who are developing these tools are the world’s best, and make an astonishing amount of money. They’re primarily going head to head with the best big data analytics that an ad company can buy. That’s just a huge mismatch.