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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.
2:34 pm on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That does not sound good. If I understand this correctly, this would be using a similar technique as referral spam. Where someone somewhere is pinging the Adsense servers using your code and listing some unrelated url as the source, while never actually visiting your site at all?

Is your account showing any revenue (CPM) from these PVs?
Does your domain name start with "box"?
3:54 pm on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing the same thing but it's only a couple of sites. They start with the same word as my main site. The sites are not in my authorized list and there is no revenue from them so I am not that worried, but it is annoying.
5:22 pm on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nick, yes my domain starts with the word "box"

None of the domains are giving me revenue since they are not verified - BUT they are also inflating the numbers of my own domain (views, not clicks), so obviously I'm worried about getting disabled due to the invalid traffic.
6:54 pm on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm worried about getting disabled due to the invalid traffic.


From what you explain I see this as variation on referral spam. There is really nothing you can do about it as the spam attack is really between the attacker and Adsense. There can't be any invalid click activity per se, since none of this is occurring on your server.

Had you not limited your account to verified sites only, then I would be a little more concerned. But for you in this case you have done all you can. As for the messed up stats, you will need to figure out how to filter your Adsense account to hide these fictitious PVs, essentially the same one does with GA to hide the referral spam.

Hopefully, Adsense will address this issue quickly, if this becomes as ubiquitous as referral spam it is going to cause a lot of havoc.
7:04 pm on Nov 12, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nick, what about the fact that they are spoofing our site as well? My page views are 40% higher every day. Today (our domain) has already 35% more page views.

Clicks are NOT affected, they are within normal range. But I guess by what you're saying, even if they are spoofing my domain and it inflates my own page views, Adsense could see that it's not actually taking place on my server (or any server)? Like someone said above, they are likely pinging the adsense servers with our publisher IDs and spoofing domains as the callbacks.
7:05 am on Nov 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys I'm also seeing the same issue! I've contacted Adsense. My pageviews are atleast 20 times normal everyday!

As a previous post says:

===
That does not sound good. If I understand this correctly, this would be using a similar technique as referral spam. Where someone somewhere is pinging the Adsense servers using your code and listing some unrelated url as the source, while never actually visiting your site at all?
===

Google must fix this issue. I am using the site authorized feature... so it's a bug that's being exploited by hackers..
7:38 am on Nov 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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As Adsense now has AdQuality - I would be/am worried about this.

It could be attempts to lower your Ad Quality score to force lower quality (paying) ads on to your site.
11:25 am on Nov 13, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Also could this be reducing my cost per click? Thanks
12:59 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Anyone got reply from Adsense support regarding this issue? Our earnings have gone down as well.. and all this invalid activity might trigger adsense ban who know?

Anyone else facing the same issue? Thanks!
4:01 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So I was dealing with something similar in the past, but on a much lower scale (although my account is now also affected by the same issue you guys are having). A competitor of mine simply stole a whole blog post, including all images and in-content ad codes as well. Turns out that it should NOT have any effect on your earnings, since only authorised sites will do so.

The thing we're seeing right now is the same, but on a much larger scale. I contacted my Google rep. He came back to me within an hour telling me that he forwarded the issue to another department (QA?). Once I have an update I'll post it here.

Sidenote: one of the sites that is using my ad tags is a fashion brand with 150k facebook likes. I think that most of these sites' owners have no clue what's going on themselves.
4:16 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@LuckyD I am not sure that it is exactly the same thing as your first instance. Vegasrick stated that some of the sites showing in his account do not run any ads. Also if actual ads were to appear on other sites then would expect to see some, even if very few, ad clicks. But again this is not what is described.

As mentioned above, this to me appears to be some variation on referral spam, but instead of using GA tracking codes the spammers are using Adsense code.
6:06 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS, you're right.

I actually visited the website I described above (the new issue), and it was actually using code with my pub-id. Some weird things are happening here.
7:54 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It seems to be an adsense impression inflation tactic, possibly to lower apparent CTR of ad slots or to lower Ad Quality in some way to push lower quality ads to competitor sites.

It isn't too difficult to fake a website on a private network and then get it to call someone else's ad codes. Someone mentioned getting masses of page views from Ukranian IPs not too long back as well.
9:53 pm on Nov 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I just took a quick look at my AdSense account and I'm seeing the same thing - there are over 200 sites in the report that aren't mine. The weird thing is the URL of these sites starts with the same letter(s) as my site. So if my site is "ab-widget dot com", these sites are variations like "abrandomstuff dot com, or "acrandomwords dot com". Almost seems like this is a weird fluke at Google.
12:34 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am also seeing a number of sites showing up as being part of my network. The OP showed many domains starting with "box" I have sites within a specific niche, although I am not in the same niche. One of the sites is a very well known site.

Mack.
2:06 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Another problem I just thought of. My personal site views, as noted earlier, are skyrocketing. I believe this is due to my own domain being used as a spoof to spam the Top Sites sections of other websites' accounts. Since some of them may or may not have verified domains turned on, I could be accruing ghost views based on other publisher ids but it's hard to know for sure. I don't see any way to verify if my domain is gaining views from other adsense accounts - and certainly that makes it tougher to stop.
2:29 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am experiencing the same thing. I think it is a Google error. Somehow Google is tallying and adding pageviews of other sites to my pageview totals. These sites are genuine sites and the ones I looked at do not have adsense accounts.
2:51 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm lucky, I have just one unverified site showing, and only 20 page views.
Just like reported here, it's domain name starts with the same 6 letters as one of mine.

It's been ages since I've even looked at the "Manage Sites" section of my account.
Could someone help me jog my memory?

1) I have all my personal domains checked off as "verified."

2) I also see I've "verified" several Google, Bing and Yahoo domains.
Is that a correct/safe thing to do?

I've just started serving AMP pages with Adsense on them.
Since they're on Google's server, do AMP websites especially need to "verify" a Google domain (server)?
Which one(s)? Or is this not an issue?
3:01 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@vegasRick you should be able to check this.
Take a time span, probably a day or week. Then go to Performance reports, "Sites" and filter for your site only.
Then go to the date range button in the top right corner and click, then within the modal window in the top left corner click the box Compare to other dates and select a date from last month or any other date with equivalent traffic and before you were impacted by this spam. This should allow you to see if the PV related specifically to your domain are impacted.

Assuming that page views from you own domain are inflated, this will then also allow you to see if you accruing revenue as result of these pages views. With one caveat, if your daily revenue varies by a large margin from day to day, you may not be able to tell by checking a single day. In which case you may want to select several days and compare the spam affected day to the average of spam free days.

I would be very curious to know whether your are profiting (indirectly and unintentionally of course) from these spam attacks. I would guess that Adsense sees this as spam. In which case the impact should be limited to the annoyance of having all your reporting royally flupped-up.
3:26 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@nick, that's hard for me to do, since we are a news site and the traffic can vary week to week by extreme amounts, depending on what happened that day or week.

From what I can tell, my clicks are normal but then again this was never about inflated clicks.

My page views are all screwed up between the spoof sites and my own inflation, but if anything I believe my revenue is LOWER. When this first began, in a day my revenue dipped by 30% (but we had spoof Ukraine traffic only that single day at zero RPM and zero clicks).

It began to pick up the following day as Google may have realized what was going on and there was no further spoof traffic, only spoof views. This week has certainly been lower despite some very strong traffic days.
4:45 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@vegasrick since it appears that you are not the only one impacted by this... maybe somebody else can check.

@ember, @born2run, @surnames @anybody else impacted, can you check if your own domain is getting unusually high page views? See my post above for details. Thanks.
7:08 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Now that you guys mention this, I checked and mine also show the same thing. Lots of unrelated domains showing up in "Top Sites" in my Adsense account. Been ages since I last checked that section out.... :)

Some new kind of spam attack. My, these people are really creative.
7:35 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It may have been happening for a while, its just a lot more noticeable within the new Adsense control panel?

Mack.
7:48 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Mack. I use the old Adsense panel. I ran a search for the entire year and this only started, in my case, in the last 2 weeks. Most people I know have NOT switched over to the new panel, although I'm sure we'll all be forced to at some point soon.
9:53 am on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS

re: @ember, @born2run, @surnames @anybody else impacted, can you check if your own domain is getting unusually high page views? See my post above for details. Thanks.

My domains pageviews are correct. The additional pageviews are showing up in reports related to domains I don't own.
2:56 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have quite a large number of low traffic adsense sites
These spam referals have been happening for about a week
The spam referal sites all begin with the same two lettters as at least one of my other sites
The spam referal sites don't have adsense and most seem genuine - there is no adsense code in their source code
They nearly all have exactly 5 visits per day in my adsense panel
3:23 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Our stats look okay, but when I go to "Settings" and select "My Sites," I see more than 50 sites listed, only a couple of which are ours. The unwanted sites are "verified sites" that I've never heard of, although many of the domain names include a noun that's also in our main domain name.
3:48 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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PS None of the sites are in my verified sites list
10:36 pm on Nov 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've been noticing this for a few weeks. I have a dozen or so non-verified sites appearing in Adsense reporting. All have the first three letters of my domains. Fortunately their numbers are low (>20 pageviews or less) so I've just dismissed it as a reporting error. There has been no significant increase in PVs on my own domains.
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