By Meghan Huggan

Ad fraud is one of the world’s most lucrative forms of criminality today. According to Juniper Research, “advertisers will lose an estimated $19 billion to fraudulent activities next year, equivalent to $51 million per day. This figure, representing advertising on online and mobile devices, will continue to rise, reaching $44 billion by 2022.” Despite this, it is extremely rare for perpetrators of ad fraud schemes to get caught or face criminal charges. Chief technology officer of White Ops, Tamer Hassan, explains “ad fraud is one of the most profitable crimes with the least amount of risk.”

In August 2017, the FBI sparked a criminal investigation of 3ve (pronounced “eve”), “one of the largest and most sophisticated digital ad fraud operations” yet to be encountered. On November 27, 2018, the search of 3ve’s operators ended. Aleksandr Zhukov, Boris Timokhin, Mikhail Andreev, Denis Avdeev, Dmitry Novikov, Sergey Ovsyannikov, Aleksandr Isaev, and Yevgeniy Timchenko have all been accused of wire fraud, computer intrusion, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering “for their alleged role in masterminding and operating 3ve and Methbot, another large ad fraud scheme exposed in 2016.” According to the DOJ press release, “three of the men have been arrested and are awaiting extradition to the United States.”

3ve involved approximately “1.7 million PCs infected with malware, an array of servers that could generate mountains of fake traffic with bots, roughly 5,000 counterfeit websites created to impersonate legitimate web publishers and over 60,000 accounts with digital advertising companies to help fraudsters receive ad placements and get paid.”  With the charges and take down of 3ve’s system, the DOJ is sending a message loud and clear: ad fraud is a global criminal industry that is being taken seriously.

As United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard P. Donoghue states, “[t]his case sends a powerful message that this Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will use all our available resources to target and dismantle these costly schemes and bring their perpetrators to justice, wherever they are.”

Student Bio: Meghan Huggan is a third-year student and a Book Review Editor for the Journal of High Technology Law. She has a B.S. in Legal Studies and Psychology from Roger Williams University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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