Online ads are a part of our digital lives. They’re also a billion-dollar-a-year industry and a hotbed for illegal activity.
Enter new ad tech security startup, DEV/CON DETECT. Founded in Memphis, DCD helps companies with a large online presence (think publishers and media houses) protect their sites, revenues, and customers from criminal activity.
In the simplest of terms, online ads can be hijacked. According to DCD’s CEO, Maggie Louie, with a few changes to an ad’s code, the money an ad generates can be rerouted. The tags that tell a website what ad to display can also be corrupted so that fake, parasitic ads get views and clicks. Bots can be sent to increase site traffic and generate even more revenue. Fake websites are then set up to filter the stolen revenue.
The result is digital money laundering to the tune of $9 billion in 2017 and a projected $19 billion for 2018 according to Juniper Research.
The inspiration for DCD came while Louie was working for a major publisher and made a surprising discovery. An employee had hacked their content management systems, hijacked their ad codes and embezzled nearly $1 million.
Louie noticed a gap in service providers. There were few people working to curb this type of ad fraud. Currently, the big industry focus is on traffic verification and making sure that visitors are real people and not bots, rather than a focus on the theft of the ad itself.
With a background deep in advertising technology and mobile product development, Louie partnered with Josh Summitt, a Memphis native and expert in cybersecurity. In 2017, they launched DCD, which now has operations in Atlanta and London in addition to the Memphis headquarters at Crosstown Concourse.
Louie worked previously with the Los Angeles Times, E.W. Scripps Company, Morris Communications and American Public Media, while CTO Summitt’s background includes leading Bank of America’s fraud detection testing and five years working with renown hacker Kevin Mitnick.
This blend of expertise is rare in the space and gives DCD a unique approach, Louie said.
“The [criminality] is fueled by the fact that it’s a highly unregulated industry, and there aren’t currently people or software that overlap from [cybersecurity] to the adware space that can remediate this,” she added.