An ad fraud operation called Hydra is skimming an estimated $130 million from advertisers, and Google and others are trying to stop it.

A new ad-fraud scheme called Hydra is stealing millions from advertisers by impersonating app traffic, fraud watchers said. The operation was detected a year ago by the Israeli company Protected Media, which recently brought it to the US ad industry’s attention. “Operation Slay Hydra” is underway to stop it, but experts say Hydra is more sophisticated than other ad-fraud operations they’ve seen. They say it points to the need for more apps to adopt fraud-protection measures and for advertising companies to share information more widely.

Exclusive Story from Business Insider by LUCIA MOSES

  • A new ad fraud scheme called Hydra is stealing millions from advertisers by impersonating app traffic, fraud watchers said.
  • The operation was detected a year ago by Israeli company Protected Media, which recently brought it to the US ad industry’s attention.
  • “Operation Slay Hydra” is underway to stop it, but experts say Hydra is more sophisticated than other ad fraud operations they’ve seen to date.
  • They say it points to the need for more apps to adopt fraud protection measures and for advertising companies to share information more widely.

A new ad fraud scheme dubbed Hydra has been creating fake app traffic that’s going unseen by humans, and it’s estimated to have cost advertisers more than $100 million.

The operation was noticed a year ago by Asaf Greiner, CEO of Protected Media, an Israeli-based network security firm. He said Hydra, as he called it, is more sophisticated than ad fraud operations of the past in that it mimics mobile phones to create fake traffic. It evades detection by selling small amounts of traffic through various ad networks and adjusting its tactics based on where ad dollars are going.

Greiner, whose firm has been tracking Hydra ever since, estimates that the scheme produces 100 million ad impressions a day in the US across some 8,000 lesser-known gaming and other leisure apps.

It’s hard to get industry agreement on the damage, but he estimates that Hydra has cost advertisers to the tune of $130 million, based on its monitoring of ads that are actually being served but not seen by humans.

“It’s the most disciplined operation I’ve ever seen,” he said. >>> READ MORE

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