How Fraud-as-a-Service Helps Criminals Perpetrate Ad Fraud


Just when you thought you had done everything you could to prevent PPC click fraud, mobile app fraud, etc., you are hit with another attack that threatens your marketing budget. You’re left wondering how fraudsters adapt so quickly. They have plenty of avenues, including availing themselves of something known as fraud-as-a-service (FaaS).

Even if you don’t know anything about FaaS specifically, a rudimentary understanding of software-as-a-service (SaaS) should give you an idea of what we are talking about here. Online fraudsters of all types can tap into FaaS to steal from digital advertisers quickly, easily, and effectively. They can do so knowing that their chances of getting away with it are pretty good.

All Over the Dark Web, a company that makes click fraud protection software by the same name, says that FaaS operators exist all over the dark web. They do what they do utilizing a model remarkably similar to the previously mentioned SaaS. But instead of offering legal tools and services for legitimate purposes, they offer tools and services for perpetrating online fraud.

Only a limited amount of FaaS is aimed specifically at click fraud and its many variants. FaaS operators are also active in helping criminals hack corporate networks, steal personal information, run gift card scams, launch DDoS attacks, etc. Ad fraud, in its many forms, just gives criminals additional options to choose from.

Just Sign Up and Go

Imagine a criminal looking to tap into the many opportunities the internet provides. All he needs to get onto the dark web is a laptop and a little bit of know-how. Once there, he can start shopping around for an FaaS provider. He shops as nonchalantly and indiscriminately as a legitimate IT worker in search of new cloud-based applications for his employer.

Once the fraudster finds an FaaS provider he wants to work with, getting started is a simple as ‘signing up’ and choosing the tools and services he wants. Of course, signing up on the dark web is a little bit different. Everything is done in the shadows.

What could a fraudster sign up for? There are endless possibilities, including:

  • pre-built affiliate websites
  • complete publishing networks
  • click bots (for automated click fraud attacks)
  • tools for creating simulated audio streams
  • tools for stealing credit for affiliate sales.

If there is a way to perpetrate ad fraud, the chances are pretty good that an FaaS operator offers a tool or service to make it reality. FaaS operators make their money the same way legitimate SaaS providers do – they charge for the tools and services they provide.

A Turnkey Operation

FaaS platforms are lucrative because they offer turnkey solutions to anyone looking to perpetrate online fraud. Even someone with a limited amount of tech knowledge can easily hook up with an FaaS provider and begin a career in cybercrime. No advanced programming or security expertise is required.

Like legitimate SaaS solutions, illegal FaaS solutions are constantly being upgraded and improved on. Dark web operators work together closely in their search for new and better ways to commit crime. In fact, you could make the case that online fraud is just the latest iteration in the evolution of organized crime.

Click fraud alone costs global advertisers tens of billions of dollars annually. With that amount of money to be made, you can bet that FaaS operators are in on it. There is too much money in click fraud to ignore it. Rest assured they don’t ignore it. Instead, they develop services and products that click fraud perpetrators are happy to pay for in an FaaS environment.

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