This Man Protects Marketers From Bogus Websites

Like tracking money launderers

Dan Peak’s company may well be the Seal Team Six in the war against rogue websites. His company, Veri-Site, boasts 10 years of experience hunting down Internet money launderers and other financial criminals. Peak’s skills as an Internet forensic scientist are a perfect fit for marketers vowing to keep their ads off rogue sites. Peak spoke to Adweek about his current work with GroupM Interaction North America COO John Montgomery. They’re perfecting Web-based software that produces a dynamic list of offending websites so advertisers like AT&T and Unilever never run messages on fraudulent sites.

How does tracking money launderers compare to thieving websites?

IP theft is similar to a criminal who stole money and put it in a bank account. They need payment processors and banks; rogue sites still need a bank account. Our approach makes sure the ad doesn’t appear in the first place and that payment processors don’t support it. We’re trying to make IP theft unprofitable.

Is piracy getting better or worse?

It’s getting worse. Every time there is pressure brought against rogue sites, they get more creative. There’s also a trend that allows people to anonymize the registration of a website. On a daily basis, we find new examples of creativity.

What will it take to choke off rogue sites?

It’s a progression. First, everyone has to agree to do things differently instead of ignoring it as a victimless crime. We’re past that point. People have bought into [the idea] that it’s a problem. In the next year or two, we will go a long way toward taking steps to screen and block.

Why is it so hard to come up with a list of offending sites?

It’s easy to put together a list once, but it’s difficult to keep it up to date. We don’t just make a list of domain names. We research how [the rogue site] operates as a business. You have to find how the domain is registered in various forms. They morph these things, so you need to find multiple domains, anything about the business, the various IPs they use. But you also want to know the whole picture, who the owner is, their investors, beneficial owners, where they’re located, any indication of criminal activity and who is facilitating payment. The professionals operate in a network, so if one site goes down, another goes up.

Can your approach catch them all?

We’ll never get them all. We just want to make sure the big fish don’t get away. I’m confident we’re getting the big fish.

What about the other pieces of the piracy ecosystem?

Banks and financial institutions are the easiest part of this. They already screen for these activities because they have a legal responsibility to take action. They’re obligated to know who their customers are and make sure those customers aren’t involved in any criminal activity. ISPs are being asked to take some steps, but they are generally reluctant. Ad networks are already doing some screening. To compete, they have to be able to avoid pornography, so they have some tools for screening.

The Internet community since SOPA hasn’t been receptive to legislative solutions. Do any new laws make sense?

Legislation is a long process. If you ever wait for legislation to be the answer, there will be a lot of disappointment.

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