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Click Fraud Trojans - A Profitable Business

Security experts at Trend Micro have discovered that click fraud conducted through medium-sized botnet is a profitable business that can earn millions of dollars on an annual basis.

Researchers at 'Trend Micro' have recently studied the click fraud cybercriminal model and stated that a medium-size botnet could earn hackers millions of dollars every year.

The company states that the networks used by these hackers can include more than 100 servers hosted at different data centers around the world. Some Internet groups have thousands of dollars in liquid assets which enable them to make considerable investments in latest criminal activities that ensure huge returns. Therefore, the collateral damage their activities cause is massive.

In order to explain their model, the firm took a specific botnet between March 2010 and the end of July 2010. The botnet's size changed frequently, it presently comprises of almost 150,000 bots. The firm stated that though this was not a massive botnet, but it was capable of generating thousands of dollars annually.

The firm informs that this botnet is comprised of systems infected with a special kind of Trojan called browser Hijacker. The computer Trojan downloads itself into the browser and takes user clicks to the sponsored search results on other websites that pay hackers for bringing traffic.

The technique is naturally more complicated and these landing sites are not essentially harmful. They are of legal advertisers who are generally deceived to accept the stream of bogus clicks, either by the alleged traffic brokers serving as facilitators or by the botnet runners directly.

The money per click that hackers earn is based on search keyword leading to clicked results. For instance, a click on a search result related to "facebook" (that gives nearly zero return on investment for advertisers) earns only $0.0072. On the other hand, a click on a result for "loans" or "home-based business opportunities" could earn nearly $2.

Finally, Trend Micro's report is supported by Click Forensics latest quarterly report. As per the report, cases of pay-per-click fraud in the online industry have considerably risen in the last few quarters as botnets and malware have become advanced. The firm discovered that average click fraud rate was 18.6%, up from 17.4% in the first three
months of 2010 and 12.7% in the same months of 2009.

Related article: Click Fraud in Q3 Rises for Industry, Including Yahoo! & Google

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