Home Cyber Security News PARETO Botnet Utilized Hacked Android Phones To Generate Fake Ad Views

PARETO Botnet Utilized Hacked Android Phones To Generate Fake Ad Views

by Abeerah Hashim
PARETO botnet hacked Android phones for fake ad views

Researchers have shared details of a new botnet dubbed ‘PARETO’ that exploited hacked Android devices to create fake ad views. The botnet established and expanded its network by mimicking legit Connected TV (CTV) apps that existed on Android app stores. Before it was taken down, the botnet had already infected millions of devices to run the fake TV advertising campaign.

PARETO Botnet Generating Fake Ad Views

The cybersecurity firm HUMAN (formerly known as WhiteOps) together with its partners has shared details of a new botnet aiming to disrupt the CTV advertising ecosystem.

Discovered by the Satori Threat Intelligence and Research Team, the botnet existed for quite some time during which it infected about a million Android phones to expand its network.

The threat actors flooded the Android app stores of connected TVs impersonating otherwise legit apps. The researchers noticed around 29 different Android apps that generated 650 million ad requests daily as they spoofed over 6000 CTV apps.

Whereas, they also noticed a secondary operation via 36 malicious apps on Roku Channel Store.

Some app types that the botnet spoofed include Roku players, LG Smart TVs, Amazon FireSticks, AppleTVs, and Google Chromecast players.

The researchers shared the details of this botnet in their blog post aside from a press release.

Botnet Taken Down

According to researchers, PARETO remained active at least since last year. Throughout, HUMAN, together with its partners, kept an eye on its activities and developed countermeasures. These partners include Omnicom Media Group, The Trade Desk, Magnite, Google, and Roku.

However, as the botnet became aggressive, they took it down before it could cause further damages.

For now, the researchers confirmed that all malicious apps on Google and Roku stores no more exist. Nonetheless, PARETO has demonstrated the continued threat posed to the CTV ecosystem. As HUMAN stated in its press release,

PARETO worked by spoofing signals within malicious Android mobile apps to impersonate consumer TV streaming products running Fire OS, tvOS, Roku OS, and other prominent CTV platforms. The botnet took advantage of digital shifts that were accelerated by the pandemic, hiding in the noise in order to trick advertisers and technology platforms into believing ads were being shown on CTVs. This particular approach is lucrative for fraudsters, as pricing for ads on connected TVs is often substantially higher than pricing on mobile devices or on the web.”

The team has handed over the details of potential threat actors behind the malicious apps to law enforcement.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

You may also like

Latest Hacking News

Privacy Preference Center


The __cfduid cookie is used to identify individual clients behind a shared IP address and apply security settings on a per-client basis.

cookie_notice_accepted and gdpr[allowed_cookies] are used to identify the choices made from the user regarding cookie consent.

For example, if a visitor is in a coffee shop where there may be several infected machines, but the specific visitor's machine is trusted (for example, because they completed a challenge within your Challenge Passage period), the cookie allows Cloudflare to identify that client and not challenge them again. It does not correspond to any user ID in your web application, and does not store any personally identifiable information.

__cfduid, cookie_notice_accepted, gdpr[allowed_cookies]


DoubleClick by Google refers to the DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform which is a separate division within Google. This is Google’s most advanced advertising tools set, which includes five interconnected platform components.

DoubleClick Campaign Manager: the ad-serving platform, called an Ad Server, that delivers ads to your customers and measures all online advertising, even across screens and channels.

DoubleClick Bid Manager – the programmatic bidding platform for bidding on high-quality ad inventory from more than 47 ad marketplaces including Google Display Network.

DoubleClick Ad Exchange: the world’s largest ad marketplace for purchasing display, video, mobile, Search and even Facebook inventory.

DoubleClick Search: is more powerful than AdWords and used for purchasing search ads across Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

DoubleClick Creative Solutions: for designing, delivering and measuring rich media (video) ads, interactive and expandable ads.



The _ga is asssociated with Google Universal Analytics - which is a significant update to Google's more commonly used analytics service. This cookie is used to distinguish unique users by assigning a randomly generated number as a client identifier. It is included in each page request in a site and used to calculate visitor, session and campaign data for the sites analytics reports. By default it is set to expire after 2 years, although this is customisable by website owners.

The _gat global object is used to create and retrieve tracker objects, from which all other methods are invoked. Therefore the methods in this list should be run only off a tracker object created using the _gat global variable. All other methods should be called using the _gaq global object for asynchronous tracking.

_gid works as a user navigates between web pages, they can use the gtag.js tagging library to record information about the page the user has seen (for example, the page's URL) in Google Analytics. The gtag.js tagging library uses HTTP Cookies to "remember" the user's previous interactions with the web pages.

_ga, _gat, _gid