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New Form of Adsense Spam Attack?

Adsense Top Sites Being Exploited?

     
8:10 am on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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For the last few days my Adsense Top Sites is being exploited.

Below is a link to an image of what is happening and a small sample of my problem.

[postimg.org...]

At least 200 sites. NONE of these sites are sending me traffic in Analyitcs or coming up in my server logs or coming up on any of my other ad networks.

This only happening with Adsense and I have at least 200 sites, some of them being well established sites and some not even operational - but all of them are using the "box" name in front of the domain.

It's almost like some new form of attack or spam to screw up page view numbers.

Only verified sites can use our tags.

However, this is screwing up our page view numbers, our RPM, and other Adsense stats. I have no idea what my "real" stats are anymore because someone is screwing around.

I spoke to some of the site owners of a few domains listed in Top Sites, and 99% of them don't even use Adsense - like Box Office Mojo, a major movies news site owned by IMDB that only deals in direct buys.

I posted my problem on the Adsense help forum, and sure enough I was contacted by other site owners who are being page view bombed in the same manner - with large numbers of domains being listed on Top Sites, with the same word starting off the domain name. This has been going on for a week now.

I contacted Adsense about the problem, others have too. It's been days and nobody has reached out to me (or the other site owners) from Adsense.

The only silver lining is there is no click bombs going on. Clicks are within normal range, only some annoying page view bomb.
9:15 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys I got email from support saying Google is fixing this bug. Today my pageviews were normal but I'll check tomorrow too.
9:24 am on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I went back and forth with an Adsense rep earlier today. I advised them of this thread. They are going to look at the problem. I don't know if they solved the issue, but this is the first time in over week where I don't see any incoming spoof views coming in from anyone (at least in the last 12 hours).
6:40 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Fixed for us today - first day in several weeks we have not seen the problem.

Sure would be nice to get some real insight from Google on what was causing this. A harmless nuisance on the face of it, but theres got to be more to the story.
10:25 pm on Nov 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I sent a message (using the "Feedback form" to Google 2 days ago about this.
Within 12 hrs Google had fixed the problem (no foreign sites being added to pageviews reports), but did not reply to me.
Today my reports are completely back to normal.
4:56 pm on Nov 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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System: The following 6 messages were spliced on to this thread from: https://www.webmasterworld.com/google_adsense/4825020.htm [webmasterworld.com] by martinibuster - 8:05 am on Nov 17, 2016 (utc -5)


I noticed a rapid 50% drop in my RPM in literally an hour's time. And I noticed a much higher than usual number count for my views for that time of the day.

At first I thought it was some oddball reporting error, but then I noticed a traffic surge from the Ukraine when I checked what countries the views were coming from.

From what I can tell, there were no clicks made by that Ukraine traffic surge, so that's good but that's also probably part of the reason the RPM and earnings tanked.

It's tanked out my RPM for the moment by over 50% and I have no idea if it will go back up or stay at this low amount playing catchup for days.

Here is the thing, I DONT see this high amount of Ukraine traffic on Analytics. It's just not even coming close to the number I'm seeing on Adsense.

In the event it was a bot attack, I set up a security captcha through my CDN (cloudflare) for the entire country of Ukraine before I went to bed and the traffic apparently continued to roll in based on the highly increased numbers when I woke up this morning. I'm not sure if this indicates that it's actual human traffic where one of our stories was linked somewhere or went viral from somewhere in Ukraine, but since I don't see a source yet on Analytics it just doesn't add up.

I sent an email to Adsense just in the event someone is trying to sabotage my account, but if this traffic continues to roll in from Ukraine on a daily basis I may be forced to block the entire country which I don't want to do because I do get a trickle of legit traffic from there daily. Maybe Cloudflare javascript test is better at weeding out bots than captcha?
5:04 pm on Nov 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I should add, the RPM for this Ukraine traffic on Adsense is "0"
10:25 pm on Nov 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Now to make matters worse now my page views from the United States are inflated.

After looking over my Adsense account, I see nearly 40,000 page views coming from boxofficemojo.com - which is one of the largest movie sites in the world and is owned by IMDB. Very, very weird and makes no sense. No sites, other than the sites I approved, are allowed to run our ad tags - boxofficemojo is NOT one of them. Because of that our page views are inflated by their site which is causing our CTR to drop and thus our RMP/Earnings as well.
11:25 pm on Nov 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I should add, the RPM for this Ukraine traffic on Adsense is "0"


So why haven't you blocked and addresses and moved on with life?
11:43 pm on Nov 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Block who? There is nobody to block. I have no traffic from Ukraine or boxofficemojo on my server logs or analytics. Only on Adsense, which would indicate the tags are being used somewhere. I spoke to boxofficemojo and they only show direct buy adverts via IMDB. They have no adsense tags.

Only verified sites are allowed to use our tags, but Adsense still takes in the zero RPM and the views (although you are not responsible for the BS going on these other sites).
1:38 am on Nov 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Okay, then why worry about it?
5:02 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Is anyone seeing clicks or revenue from any site they do not control?

Mack.
5:22 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@mack, it gets even more bizarre than that. I was in contact with the owner of a high traffic website that showed up in my report. He was certainly not using any of my code and/or my ads. It's an error on Google's side, which is why publishers should theoretically not see any traffic or revenue from these sites.
7:34 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Just when I thought it was solved, the issue has come back today after three days of peace and quiet
11:46 pm on Nov 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am also seeing a lot of very strange stuff in my Google Analytics "secret.google.com reserve your free ticket here Vote Trump!" showing up as a referral a lot of the time in real-time view. Whilst I was seeing ad impressions from secret.google.com 3 days ago.

Mack.
2:43 pm on Nov 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Whilst I was seeing ad impressions from secret.google.com 3 days ago.
More evidence that this Adsense spam is a new form of referral spam. The fact that it has returned does not surprise me, the spammers probably changed host name, and started spamming again. Let the game of whack-a-mole begin.

I fear that Adsense may have to implement some sort of hostname filtering as is the case with GA and this will probably take some time.

@Mack you can easily block the referral spam from analytics by filtering on hostname, and excluding any traffic that does not equal www.yourdomain.com.
3:27 am on Nov 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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After 4 days of being fixed, pageviews are inflated with foreign domains again
2:59 pm on Nov 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's back for us as well after a brief hiatus.

Cant seem to find any commonality or connection to these sites, looked at server info, registration, IP addresses, against them and us.

Only thing that sticks out is most of their domains have the same first few letters as several of our sites, ex. ours is widget.com theirs is widball.com
8:03 am on Nov 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Back for me as well
10:31 pm on Nov 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Its worse now than it ever was, up to maybe 50% of the sites in the report we have no connection with (as far as we know)
1:50 am on Nov 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone on this forum has any reassurance that what seems to be a clear bug will not affect the earnings of publishers? Obviously, we could spend endless hours trying to figure this out in the absence of any apparent real traffic, but that would seem to be an entirely theoretical exercise regarding what seems to be a script that could have been written by anyone of any age from any country with an agenda (or not).
4:08 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This weekend I have received a notification from ga telling that ads were disabled on some of my sites. The offending site is one that does not belong to me and that is not listed on my sites list, not even as unverified. It is a #*$! site and it has no ga code running. The only common feature is the first letters of the domain name are the same as one of my domains.

Now I have a red notification bar over my reports and I do not know how to remove it.
4:15 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@trabis, I am sorry to hear that. Wow! that totally sucks. I assumed Adsense would see that this was spam and not take action but clearly we know now that this is not the case.
Have you contacted Adsense, what did they say?
4:37 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Nick, they suspended ads on a site I do not own so the only reason to complain is the red bar.
I do not know how to contat ga.
I went to ga forum and got some relief by noticing this was a common issue.
I assume google is already aware of this problem and that they'll solve it soon.

My sites are performing well in terms of RPM so I'm not worried :)
4:51 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@trabis I seem to have misread your first post. Just to clarify a few points.
Adsense has only stop serving ads to the site that you do not own or run?
Adsense is still serving ads to the site your legitimate site?
The red-bar appear in your Adsense account?
By ga you mean Google Adsense and not Google Analytics?
5:12 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Nick, yes to all questions. Just want to repeat that the site that I do not own did not have the adsense code when I last checked and since it is an adult site I supose it never had.

I think this hackers are pinging ga servers just to get a referer in ga console.
5:26 pm on Nov 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@trabis, so there is no need for me to feel sorry for you. It appears that Adsense has correctly identified the problem. They are informing you that it has taken action on that specific site, in the unlikely event that the site they have taken action on was actually yours. Which it is not! So all is good, and as you said there is no reason to contact Adsense.

I think this hackers are pinging ga servers just to get a referer in ga console.

That is what i think as well, and that was why I was surprised when I misread your first post.
10:10 am on Nov 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I finally got a reply from Google today about this problem. They didn't really provide a solution, didn't really seem concerned and they gave me the impression that it's common to have other domain pageviews appearing in Adsense reports.
I just hope these foreign domains don't somehow screw up EOM reports and there is a huge clawback in revenue for November.
Will see in a few days when revenue report comes in early December
5:48 pm on Dec 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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EOM reports are normal, no unusually large clawback.
2:55 am on Dec 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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FWIW, the foreign pageviews dropped off my reporting 4 days ago.
3:09 am on Dec 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Me too, crossing my fingers
This 62 message thread spans 3 pages: 62
 

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