Up To 14% Of Mobile Traffic Is Controlled By Hackers

Ari Jacoby Solve MediaAri Jacoby, founder of Solve Media.

Botnets that try to hack into your online accounts are moving onto mobile phones, according to Solve Media, the company that makes those “captcha” word problems users must type-in to prove they’re human.

In Q1 2013, 29% of mobile traffic acted “suspiciously,” of which 14% was confirmed as bots, Solve Media tells us. The company looked at 300 million identity authentications from its network of 6,000 publishers.

The news comes amid a flurry of reports that internet ad traffic is driven in significant part by botnets — armies of computers unknowingly infected by hackers to drive fake traffic through ads, generating up to $400 million a year in fraudulent clicks. One botnet, dubbed “chameleon,” consists of 120,000 machines driving traffic to 200 dubious publishers, who then bill the likes of  American Express, AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, and Petco for displaying their ads.

Solve sells captcha problems not just as security solutions but also as branding opportunities. For instance, rather than solving a word puzzle, users could be asked to type in the answer to a branded question, such as “what colour is Tide detergent?” (Orange, duh.)

In general, 40 per cent of all captcha traffic includes suspicious activity (which can be something as simple as getting the captcha answer wrong) of which 29% was bot traffic. That’s up from 25% in Q4 2012.

Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are the worst offenders: suspicious mobile traffic was at 71% and 67% there, respectively.

In the U.S., suspicious activity was 44 per cent; suspicious mobile activity was 19 per cent.

Ari Jacoby, CEO of Solve Media, told us in a statement: “It is up to publishers to implement anti-bot solutions and up to advertisers to seek out partners that take a real stance against bot traffic.”

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