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Click Fraud Increased in Q4 2008 Due to Botnets

As per the quarterly report of Click Forensics, Click fraud, a major threat to the highly profitable pay-per-click search advertising business, increased tremendously in Q4 2008 because of hackers' developed and advanced use of botnets.

Although click fraud usually witnesses a seasonal increase in the holiday shopping season, Q4 2008 was specifically terrible. The report also reveals that the number of click fraud incidents increased to 17.1% in Q4 2008 from 16% in Q3 2008 and from 16.6% in Q4 2007.

A major factor in the increment of click fraud during Q4 2008 was the consistent increase in the use of botnets. A botnet is a network of systems that have been secretly hacked by malicious attackers, who use them for several tasks like sending spam and, in this situation, initiating click fraud.

The situation is alarming as almost 30% of click fraud came from automated bots, a 14% increment from Q3 2008 and the highest rate Click Forensics has ever encountered since it commenced collecting data.

Another factor behind the increase of click fraud is the worldwide economic crisis, which has multiplied all kinds of cyber crimes. Click fraud for advertisements on content networks such as Yahoo Publisher Network and Google AdSense touched 28.2% in Q4 2008 from 27.1% in earlier quarter (Q3, 2008), although that figure dropped from Q4 2007 when it was at 28.3%. Apart from the US, click fraud also hailed from Canada, which contributed 7.4%, Germany (3%) and China (2.3%).

The company also said that it has witnessed resurgence of some old-hat tricks such as link farms. The company also added that the increase might be accredited to the poor economy, which has caused an expansion in phishing and other cyber crimes.

In addition, Click Forensic revealed objectives for fraud that include pumping up commissions earned on advertisements and driving up expenditure for competing businesses. Internet companies like Google and Yahoo depend on revenue from pay-per-click ads and use methods to disclose fake clicks so that the advertisers do not have to pay.

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

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