The Sentencing of The King Of Fraud and the Birth of Collective Protection

A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the result of the Methbot trial and offered a brief summary of Aleksandr Zhukov (the self-proclaimed King of Fraud) and his role in Methbot: 

Aleksandr Zhukov, a Russian national, was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn of four counts of a superseding indictment charging him with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. The charges arose from Zhukov’s sophisticated scheme to defraud brands, ad platforms and others in the U.S. digital advertising industry out of more than $7 million. 

On November 10th, 2021, Zhukov was sentenced in a courthouse in Brooklyn, New York to 10 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $3,827,493 in restitution. When announcing the sentence, Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said: 

Sitting at his computer keyboard in Bulgaria and Russia, Zhukov boldly devised and carried out an elaborate multi-million-dollar fraud against the digital advertising industry, and victimized thousands of companies across the United States. Today’s sentence holds the defendant accountable for his deception and outright theft of more than $7 million, and sends a powerful message to cyber criminals around the world that there is no escape from the international reach of law enforcement.

HUMAN (formerly White Ops) initially discovered the Methbot cybercriminal organization back in 2016. We then took a leading role in engaging with law enforcement and many of our ad tech partners to create the largest private/public sector collaboration in history to orchestrate a major botnet takedown. It set a precedent. Working together through collective protection is the only way we will win against fraudsters. 

After seeing how important cross-industry collaboration is to defeating cybercrime, we created The Human Collective. This is a program built for companies looking to be at the forefront of fighting fraud. By working together, all members can learn from each other, utilize our Human Verification Engine, and receive exclusive access to our Satori Threat Intelligence & Research team. Human Collective flagship members include Omnicom Media Group, The Trade Desk, Magnite, and Amica Mutual Insurance and has recently expanded to more than 25 members across the ad tech industry.

As an industry, we’ve gotten a lot better at fighting ad fraud. In 2016, we reported in the Bot Baseline Report with the ANA that advertisers will lose roughly $7.2 billion to bots. But with awareness, cross-industry collaboration, and cybersecurity solutions, we were able to bring that number down. Indeed, as programmatic advertising continues to grow, it's through our work with partners that the growth of fraud in that marketplace has reversed. In 2019, we reported that for the first time, more fraud will be stopped than succeed. Projected losses for 2019 were roughly $5.8 billion—that’s a massive decrease in just a few short years.

We do not celebrate the fact that Zhukov was sentenced, as the work to eradicate ad fraud is far from over. HUMAN’s modern defense strategy, internet scale, observability and detection combined with our collective protection approach changes the game and the odds to the side of the good, enabling us to defeat attackers. This is the only way to win.