At IBC, French security specialist Inside Secure launched what it claimed to be the first product that allows OTT advertising distributors to ‘silently’ circumvent ad blocking. It is hoping its Advertising Protection solution will become adopted as an industry standard, and is already working on a further product to prevent ad fraud.
Martin Bergenwall, VP Products at Inside Secure, states that “the problem with ad blockers is that they don’t only block the ad, they also block the reporting of the showing of the ad. In other words, they block the revenue generated by the ad.”
Bergenwall says the company’s new technology works by “making it impossible for the ad blocker to distinguish between the real content and the ad by using obfuscation, by using security, by using a lot of different tricks. You could say that we camouflage the ads to look like content.” This means the ad blocker does not know where to ‘hook in’ to the divisions between the ad and the content, and is unable to function.
The product is ‘silent’ insofar as most current attempts to circumvent ad-blocking technologies generate a pop-up asking the user to uninstall their ad blocker – usually as a reminder that they require the ad revenue to pay for their original content. Inside Secure’s solution, on the other hand, does not reveal what it is doing – although it can be still configured, if required, to notify users that ad blockers must be removed before viewing content.
Asked if the new system worked against the interests of consumers legitimately seeking to avoid intrusive advertising, Cyrille Ngalle, VP of the company’s content protection business line, replied that the system in fact “allows for the display of non-intrusive ads.”
To distinguish between the two types of ad, Inside Secure is working with advertising industry body the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), which publishes standards specifying what counts as an ‘intrusive’ ad and what does not – and its solution applies these definitions. “We remember to make sure first that [the IAB] knows what we are doing,” says Ngalle.
He argues that this means “we are helping the publishers that are compliant with the standards, and therefore are legitimate in the eyes of the user.” Inside Secure’s aim is eventually to have its solution adopted by the IAB as part of its standards in this area.
Ngalle emphasises that simply circumventing ad-blockers is just one aspect of the client-side solution, which also ensures ad blockers “cannot block the reporting of showing the ad, ensuring that the revenue comes back to the publisher.” This means it is also useful for advertising systems that insert the ad server-side, which – while ensuring the ad will be viewed – may not be able to prevent hackers blocking ad impressions from being properly reported.
The system also protects against hacker replay, replacement and spoofing attacks – and is hardened against counter-attacks, using Inside Secure’s own software protection technology to shield the code it contains. “We not only protect the ad blocker from coming in, but we also protect against people trying to hack in to our code or reverse-engineer what we do – so we provide real robustness there.”
Bergenwall notes that Inside Secure is also working on an ad fraud prevention system to complement the ad-blocking product. “An ad fraud would be, for example, somebody calling ad bots to do fake clicks, so they can get revenue. We are working on ad fraud prevention as a next step in the Advertising Protection product suite.”