Companies take steps to battle ‘click fraud’

Major companies are taking new steps to ensure their ads are clicked on by real Web surfers, not hijacked computers known as “bots.”

Advertising contracts between companies and websites now often stipulate that the vast majority of ad clicks must come from humans.

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The rush to protect ad dollars comes after a warning by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that companies are losing more than $6 billion a year to a phenomenon dubbed “click fraud.”

In that process, cyber criminals infect a computer with malware and use it to direct the machine to click on certain ads, generating false traffic.

Click fraud comes most often from third parties paid to direct traffic to certain websites, according to the ANA.

"We've written into all of our contracts that our clients insist on at least 95 percent human traffic and anything less requires a make good or credit," Barry Lowenthal, president of ad buyer The Media Kitchen, told Reuters.

"By the end of 2015 we expect that every major agency and every major advertiser will include these kinds of clauses in their terms and conditions."

So-called bot nets are a major problem online as hackers gain the upper hand. In response, the Obama administration has proposed giving courts more leeway to shut them down.