A bot called 404 is stealing advertisers’ media spend

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 26 February 2020

Integral Ad Science (IAS) announced a threat alert on 404bot, a scheme generating fake browser data and creating fabricated URLs in order to steal advertisers’ media spend.

IAS estimates the 404bot is responsible for costing the industry upwards of $15 million and affected more than 1.5 billion video ads.

The 404bot uses unaudited Ads.txt files, a tool created to help ad buyers avoid illegitimate sellers and prevent unauthorised inventory sales.

This new bot scheme is able to bypass many preventative techniques and ensure spoofed URLs slip under the radar.

The 404bot has affected a range of publishers domains, many of which have one thing in common: large Ads.txt lists.

"The 404bot has been active since 2018 and its unchecked growth now warrants industry action," says Evgeny Shmelkov, head of the IAS Threat Lab.

“Publishers have done an excellent job in implementing Ads.txt but what we are learning from this bot is that it is crucial to continuously audit and update Ads.txt files.”

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