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DoubleVerify IDs New CTV Ad Fraud Scheme

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(Image credit: iStock)

NEW YORK—DoubleVerify, a major software platform for digital media measurement, data and analytics, has identified a new Connected TV (CTV) advertising fraud scheme, dubbed “SmokeScreen,” which allowed screensavers to hijack CTV devices to generate impressions — even when the screen is off. 

The company also announced that DV’s Fraud Lab of data scientists, mathematicians and researchers, has developed a way to neutralize SmokeScreen for its clients and partners. 

The scam, however, remains active, generating false impressions from nearly 10,000 devices that remain unprotected. 

“As fraudsters continue to aggressively target the CTV space, we are committed to blocking emerging fraud schemes across all devices, formats and ad delivery platforms,” said Mark Zagorski, CEO at DoubleVerify. “Safeguarding the brands we serve is our first priority, since it directly impacts ad effectiveness. Fraud harms inventory quality, which in turn drives suboptimal business outcomes for global advertisers. Through the incredible efforts of our Fraud Lab, DV is providing CTV advertisers with much-needed transparency and protection, while helping to preserve the monetization opportunity for quality publishers.” 

The new CTV ad fraud scheme SmokeScreen involves getting an end user to install the fraudsters’ screensaver. Then, SmokeScreen generates impressions en masse using falsified data and continuously running impressions in the background. The user has no idea ads are being continuously served on the device, even when the CTV screen is off. On average, the typical hijacked device generates three times the impression volume of its legitimate counterpart. 

While DV has neutralized SmokeScreen for its clients and partners, the scheme remains active on unprotected CTV platforms and advertiser campaigns, impacting nearly 10,000 devices daily and generating up to 10 million fraudulent requests each day. At an average $20 CPM across CTV, each month SmokeScreen generates more than 300 million ad requests, valued at over $6 million — defrauding advertisers and publishers alike. 

"CTV ad fraud doesn’t just impact advertisers,” said Roy Rosenfeld, Head of DV’s Fraud Lab. “It’s harmful for the entire ecosystem — siphoning revenue from high-quality CTV publishers and app developers, as well as streaming platforms.” 

DV’s Fraud Lab utilized data and insights from the company’s Video Filtering solution, a new DV innovation that lets advertisers reduce quality infractions and associated wasted investment across all video environments and devices, even where blocking is not supported — such as CTV. In this case, the DV Fraud Lab used DV Video Filtering to help create a SmokeScreen detector that protects DV clients from the attempted fraud. 

For the full analysis of SmokeScreen, click here

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.