Collective Intelligence Podcast, 3ve Online Ad Fraud Operation Takedown

December 5, 2018
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Last week’s takedown of the 3ve online ad fraud operation was a sizable win for private industry and law enforcement against a profitable yet niche slice of cybercrime.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the seizure of the infrastructure supporting 3ve, along with a 13-count indictment against eight individuals—two of whom have been arrested and await extradition to the U.S.—involved in the operation. This network of bots, complex malware, and tactics to evade researchers and forensics capabilities included close to two million infected computers at any given time. The operators had also counterfeited more than 10,000 websites and were generating anywhere between three and 12 billion daily requests to sell fraudulent online ads.

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In this episode of the Collective Intelligence Podcast, White Ops President and Cofounder Michael Tiffany and Principal Security Researcher Ryan Castellucci discuss the company’s involvement in researching the inner workings of the 3ve operation, and the industry collaboration that had to be fostered between private-sector companies and law enforcement in order to shut this activity down for good.

Download the Google and White Ops whitepaper: “The Hunt for 3ve”

3ve operated on an unprecedented scale, running three sub-operations that generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue by selling ad spaces on counterfeited premium websites and generating phony audiences to real websites.

White Ops teamed up with Google to form a coalition of companies from the ad industry, information security, and internet infrastructure providers to deploy countermeasures and eventually dismantle the operation.

During the podcast, Tiffany and Castellucci discuss not only the technical aspects of the 3ve operation, but also how the economic model and incentives of the online ad industry were leveraged by this expansive criminal enterprise. The two also discuss important takeaways for ad networks and publishers going forward to better combat online ad fraud.

The Collective Intelligence Podcast, presented by Flashpoint and hosted by Editorial Director Mike Mimoso, features regular interviews with a diverse set of industry experts and Flashpoint analysts on the latest information security news and industry trends.