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Click fraud is a well-known strategy for scammers to generate money by exploiting the generosity of internet affiliate programs. For example, a website may have an advertisement that is clicked on by a bot or (less frequently) a real person in order to generate an artificially high level of monetized user interaction. What many people are not aware of is that attackers have been employing software to commit click fraud as well as other malicious behaviors, making it a distinct type of malware in its own right.
What is click fraud and how does it happen?
Did you know that one in every five paid clicks in the month of January 2017 was fake, according to advertising experts? This suggests that either malware, a specific application, or an unhappy individual was responsible for this click on the web page.
Click fraud, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) or performance-based advertising, is the practice of replicating the activities of legitimate web users, such as clicking on a web-based advertisement, to generate revenue. It is important (from the attacker’s perspective) to create clicks on adverts regardless of whether there is real interest in the subject matter being advertised.
Some click fraud is employed by ad agencies to exaggerate click numbers, but malware is responsible for a large portion of the click fraud activity online. These clicks equate into dollars for the attackers, who may have been employed by an advertising agency; but, regardless of where the clicks originate, the final effect is frequently the dissemination of even more harmful software.
It is possible for click fraud malware to infect a system in numerous ways. The following are some of the most popular methods:
- As an attachment to unsolicited email messages
- Apps that have been infected
- Malware that has been downloaded by other malware
- Obtainable through the use of vulnerability exploits
Click fraud is becoming increasingly prevalent, which has led Google to include click fraud in its revised definition of “potentially hazardous apps” (PHAs) (PHA). Notably, the number of click fraud-infected apps in the Google Play store climbed by 100 percent between 2017 and 2018, indicating that the problem is becoming more widespread.
What is the process by which click fraud occurs?
Click fraud is still practiced today, but it is done through the use of bots to generate an excessive amount of clicks on click fraud adverts. The act of merely creating fraudulent clicks does not constitute malware in and of itself, but the ability to generate fraudulent clicks is only a part of the tale.
Click fraud can be carried out by a standalone click producing bot, but increasingly, this skill is being incorporated as one of the functions of a piece of malware rather than as a standalone capability. In addition to data theft and backdoor opening for other attackers, click fraud malware may be able to download even worse malware than the original click fraud malware that executed the download.
Simply said, click fraud is frequently simply one of the capabilities of malware, which as a whole represents a far higher hazard. The following are some of the additional, more harmful capabilities of click fraud malware:
- Theft of information, including very sensitive information
- Theft of one’s identity or fraud
- Privacy is being invaded as a result of web browser tracking.
- Security breach on the computer system
This Trojan, which conducts its attack campaign through the use of click fraud, was first found in November of 2013. Spam email attachments are the most typical way for it to propagate. It installs itself as a browser plugin and is automatically loaded every time the browser is opened. MIUREF also has the capability of installing the TSPY FAREIT malware family, which is one of its other capabilities. MIUREF can be disguised as cracks or key generators to trick the user into downloading it.
Kovter operates by infecting a compromised machine with a disguised Chromium embedded framework (CEF) browser that runs in the background. As a result, the C2 server transmits advertisements to the infected computer, which are subsequently displayed within the CEF browser. Until the end of November 2018, most of the primary threat actors responsible for Kovter’s infrastructure have been apprehended, effectively taking the click fraud malware’s infrastructure down.
The Ramdo malware family is one of many malware families that are specifically designed to commit click fraud. Malicious Adobe Flash Player is distributed through the use of exploit kits (RIG, Angler, and Blackhole) and spam email containing URLs that link users to malicious Adobe Flash Player. These files have the filename flashplayer20 ga install.exe in the extension.
The Ramdo malware takes advantage of processes that are already operating on an infected system and injects malicious DLL code into them, as well as downloading a CEF from the Ramdo C2 server and navigating to adverts through a false browser. The Ramdo virus family is also well-known for downloading other infections onto infected computers.
Click fraud is a well-known marketing strategy used by marketers to generate false clicks in order to generate revenue. What is less well-known is the fact that malware is responsible for a large portion of this click fraud, and that malware can do click fraud as a prelude to the full-blown cyberattack that occurs after a successful cyberattack.
In addition to its distinct ability to generate clicks, click fraud also possesses high-level malware capabilities and is becoming increasingly prevalent in the malware environment, all of which combine to establish it as a distinct sort of malware in its own right.