Click Bots: What They Are and How They Work

Click fraud is a global problem that costs advertisers billions annually. Among the many possible click fraud examples one could cite is that of a click bot generating thousands of clicks intended to generate revenue for an ad publisher. Are you familiar with click bots? Do you know what they are and how they work? Rogue publishers and scammers can perpetrate click fraud without being discovered. Fortunately, click fraud monitoring is becoming as sophisticated as fraudulent techniques. Click fraud prevention software like Fraud Blocker is increasingly gaining the upper hand. But bots are still making things difficult.

Click Bots

Bots Are Software Packages

 From a purely technical standpoint, bots are neither good nor bad. From a strictly technical perspective, bots are neither good nor bad. Bots are little more than software packages installed on computers and mobile devices. Generally, a bot is a program that automates a given task. For example, bots can be programmed as chatbots to answer FAQs on a company’s website. Click bots are bad because of the tasks they are programmed to do. Their main purpose is to generate ad clicks that translate into revenue for publishers. Remember that PPC advertising is all about clicks. Advertisers are charged for every click their ads receive. The more clicks, the more publishers can charge.

Basic Bots Click

As you might expect, click bots operate at varying levels of sophistication. The most basic click bots do nothing more than find and connect ads. A creator with limited knowledge might go no further than creating a bot and placing it on his website (as a publisher) so that it continually clicks one ad after another. Such a rudimentary bot would be easy to discover. The more sophisticated a click bot, the harder it is to detect. Therefore, scammers tend to be much more sophisticated in bot designs.

Bots That Mimic Humans

Some of the most sophisticated click bots do much more than click. They are programmed to mimic how humans interact with websites. For example, they can simulate the following:

  • mouse movements
  • page navigation
  • content consumption
  • accidental clicks.

The more a bot can mimic human activity, the more successful it is in hiding what it does. It takes an equally sophisticated click fraud prevention software to detect and block a click bot capable of mimicking human activity.

Traffic Generated by Botnets

Despite being fairly successful, click bots have one fatal flaw: they leave behind a digital paper trail through IP addresses, timestamps, etc. That data is used by connecting fraud protection services to identify and avoid the bots. But never fear. Click fraud perpetrators have a workaround. That workaround is the botnet. A botnet is a network of computers all running the same click bot from locations worldwide. Since one bot isn’t doing all the work, it’s easy for the botnet to confuse click fraud monitoring software. It is also easier for more sophisticated click bots to fool the software into thinking they are human beings. Fraudsters establish botnets by creating malicious software. That software makes its way to unsuspecting computers and mobile devices through shady websites, email malware schemes, and other similar means. The ease of downloading malicious software largely influences how big a botnet gets. A lot more could be said about the click bot and how it works. But now you know the basics. Whether your organization is currently involved in PPC advertising or plans to do so, see that click bots are out there.

Comments Off on Click Bots: What They Are and How They Work