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PPC Fraud, Google Stands to Lose Millions

Google stands to lose millions if fraud continues. It is only a matter of time before the current problem of click fraud implodes on Google.

You've seen them, there impossible to miss, glaring at you on virtually every page of your favorite website, those little blue boxes that webmasters have become so fond of, the infamous Google Ad's. Everyone wants to get in on the big bucks action. If you listen to the stories, Google is writing some impressive checks and the temptation will be just to much for the hackers. The target is so obvious.

You see, hackers don't care who benefits from their efforts as long as "the Man" suffers. For many years now the man has been Bill Gates and Microsoft. Hackers have done everything possible to disable his empire, creating virus after virus just to mess with him, even the US Government got into the act. Now the new giant on the block is Google and the hackers are drooling with anticipation. It is just a mater of time before some genius hacker figures out how to get a spider to do his dirty work and turns loose a new age type of virus, the "clicker bug."

Here is a quick overview; the search engine advertising market is currently almost $4 billion per year with fraud estimated somewhere in the 5-15% range. The majority of this fraud is done at the search engine listing page level and most is accomplished by hand. The object is to drive up the click counts of a targeted website to use up there budget and consequently disable there ad or better yet get the company (your competition) to remove them entirely.

Both Google and Yahoo/Overture acknowledge that the click fraud problem exists. Their in house experts claim that improved internal controls will prevent this problem from escalating. Their stated position seems to be that they are concerned about click fraud, but that it is not a material issue so far. Given how much they stand to lose if advertisers cut back on advertising spending, this cavalier attitude certainly is surprising. Industry research firm eMarketer expects $7.4 billion to be spent on search engine advertising by 2008. At the current fraud rates that amounts to $750 million, about three quarters of a billion dollars!

Now along comes the "clicker bug" and instead of attacking the case hardened, almost bullet proof, servers of the search engine giant, they crawl the internet and click indiscriminately on 3 or 4 ads per website every night. The clicks would appear harmless and the bugs effort will only generate revenues of $ .25 for the page owners. After all, the object is to take down the man not generate revenue for any given website. The search engines will be so busy guarding the vault against monsters they won't notice the ants walking away with the refrigerator, but multiply that quarter times the total number of websites available and in just a few days Google could be overwhelmed. The only way to stop it would be to encrypt every ad or employ pattern gif's like the "who is" pages do.

Grant it the technology is not quite there yet but hackers are some the industries brightest, if a bit deranged, programmers and they will figure it out. If I can think of it they can do it.


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