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Click fraud service discovered to be using Google trademark and advertising on YouTube

click-fraudJuly 29, 2014

Online security expert Brian Krebs recently discovered a scam in which a Russian hacker is not only defrauding Google AdWords customers but actually using Google’s trademark, advertising the scam in instructional YouTube videos, and corresponding with customers using Gmail accounts.

The scam is a click fraud service known as GoodGoogle and its aim is to block competitors’ ads and/or run down the budgets of competitors’ ads.

GoodGoogle’s promise

GoodGoogle has drawn many customers into its scam since as early as January of 2012 by offering this promise: “Are you tired of the competition in Google AdWords that take your first position and quality traffic? I will help you get rid once and for all competitors in Google AdWords.”

For an upfront payment in virtual currency, GoodGoogle will block from three to ten competitors ads for 24 hours for $100 each. The price goes down to $80 per ad when the advertiser orders GoodGoogle to block between 15 and 30 ads for up to 24 hours. Or for a flat fee of $1,000, GoodGoogle will block a handful of competitors’ ads indefinitely. Both a la carte and subscriptions are offered. Whoever is running GoodGoogle actually offers a three week warranty.

Krebs reached GoodGoogle via instant message, but said the person answering would not discuss how the product works. Instead he pointed Krebs to a forum where he “could find dozens of happy customers to vouch for the efficacy of the service.”

How the scam has eluded Google’s detection

How has this click fraud service avoided Google’s detection for at least two and a half years? Researcher Nicholas Weaver of the International Computer Science Institute and the University of California at Berkeley speculates that they’ve escaped Google’s anti-fraud systems by using two components: a botnet, which is a private network of computers dedicated to automated clicking, and software that controls the clicking of the bots to make their clicking appear as if it is organic from search results.

Krebs predicted it is only a matter of time before Google shuts down GoodGoogle and locates the individual who is behind it all, since this individual is using Gmail accounts and posting videos to YouTube.