Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

SecurityWeekSecurityWeek

Cybercrime

Massive Botnet Stealing Millions of Dollars Per Month From Advertisers

A botnet called Chameleon, researchers say, is responsible for stealing $6 million per month from advertisers online, by emulating human traffic. The research and warning comes from Spider.io, who published details on the botnet and a list of some of the largest hosts.

A botnet called Chameleon, researchers say, is responsible for stealing $6 million per month from advertisers online, by emulating human traffic. The research and warning comes from Spider.io, who published details on the botnet and a list of some of the largest hosts.

“Chameleon is a sophisticated botnet. Individual bots run Flash and execute JavaScript. Bots generate click traces indicative of normal users. Bots also generate client-side events indicative of normal user engagement. They click on ad impressions with an average click-through rate of 0.02%; and they surprisingly generate mouse traces across 11% of ad impressions,” a researcher report on the botnet explains.

Botnet ImageThe botnet seems to focus itself on 202 websites, these websites combined generate 14 billion ad impressions per month, and Chameleon represents at least 9 billion of them. Advertisers are currently paying $0.69 CPM to display ads to the 120,000 systems that are believed to be the core of the botnet itself. The researchers were able to determine that of the 202 websites that are the focus of Chameleon, the botnet accounts for 65% of their traffic. Based on IP, the bots all reside in the U.S., primarily in the residential sector.

“Despite the sophistication of each individual bot at the micro level, the traffic generated by the botnet in aggregate is highly homogenous. All the bot browsers report themselves as being Internet Explorer 9.0 running on Windows 7. The bots visit the same set of websites, with little variation. The bots generate uniformly random click co-ordinates across ad impressions and the bots also generate randomised mouse traces,” the research note continues.

Missing from the report is the list of 202 websites targeted by the botnet, which would help determine the advertising networks that are being scammed, and either confirm or exclude a link between the botnet operators and the sites themselves.

However, it’s still solid research from the crew at Spider.io, which is known for tackling problems with automated traffic. It’s also interesting to note that Chameleon is – at least when it comes to the size of financial impact – 70 times larger than the Bamital botnet that was taken down by Microsoft and Symantec last month.

Bamital hijacked search engine results, often directing victims to websites the attacker controlled. From there, Bamital had the ability to serve additional malware and exploits from the attacker’s domain, but it could also be used to generate advertising impressions and ad clicks. When compared to Chameleon though, it’s a small packet fish in an ocean of traffic.

Written By

Click to comment

Expert Insights

Related Content

Cybercrime

Zendesk is informing customers about a data breach that started with an SMS phishing campaign targeting the company’s employees.

Cybercrime

The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 has demonstrated the potential of AI for both good and bad.

Cybercrime

The FBI dismantled the network of the prolific Hive ransomware gang and seized infrastructure in Los Angeles that was used for the operation.

Cybercrime

A new study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) named a staggering figure as the true annual cost of...

Cybercrime

Video games developer Riot Games says source code was stolen from its development environment in a ransomware attack

Cybercrime

CISA, NSA, and MS-ISAC issued an alert on the malicious use of RMM software to steal money from bank accounts.

Application Security

PayPal is alerting roughly 35,000 individuals that their accounts have been targeted in a credential stuffing campaign.

Cybercrime

A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...