A Russian person was found guilty in the United States of using a bot farm and hiring servers to create fraudulent internet traffic on media sites, causing businesses to pay inflated advertising rates.
Prosecutors said Aleksandr Zhukov, 41, was the brains of the Methbot operation, in which 1,900 servers were used to generate millions of bogus online ad views on websites such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. According to the US, Zhukov gained $7 million from the scheme and channeled the money into offshore accounts around the world, citing a text in which he referred to himself as the “King of Fraud.”
The group allegedly called their plan “Metan,” which is the Russian term for methane, while the FBI and prosecutors referred to it as Methbot, and later as Media Methane, which was the name of Zhukov’s company with operations in Russia and Bulgaria.
Zhukov and his colleagues negotiated deals with advertising networks to display their ads on websites, then received a commission for each ad that was viewed. According to prosecution filings, Zhukov and his collaborators instead established bogus sites and manipulated data centres to produce false users to make it appear like actual people were viewing the ads from September 2014 to December 2016.
“Zhukov represented to others that he ran a legitimate ad network that delivered advertisements to real human internet users accessing real internet web pages,” according to a superseding indictment filed on February 12, 2020.
“In fact, Zhukov faked both the users and the webpages: he and his co-conspirators programmed computers that they had rented from commercial data centers in the United States and elsewhere to load advertisements on fabricated webpages, via an automated program, in order to fraudulently obtain digital advertising revenue,” it says.
Victims of the scheme “included The New York Times, The New York Post, Comcast, Nestle Purina, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and Time Warner Cable,” the Department of Justice said in a news release.
On a temporary US arrest order, Zhukov was arrested in Bulgaria in November 2018. In January 2019, he was extradited to the United States and pleaded not guilty to the accusations against him.
If you like the site, please consider joining the telegram channel or supporting us on Patreon using the button below.