Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Navigating the pitfalls of online advertising using residential proxy servers

As technology becomes an ever-increasing part of our lives, the ability for advertisers to reach a huge audience via the internet and social media, likewise, expands proportionally. 30 or 40 years ago, pre-internet, advertising was practiced by companies through a variety of methods. Bigger organizations obviously chose the largest audience available, namely TV advertising and national newspapers. Local businesses would set up campaigns in free local magazines, on sponsored wall calendars, billboards and perhaps local commercial radio stations.

Back then it was difficult to measure how well a campaign was doing aside from monitoring the amount of new business that was generated. But fast forward to social media advertising, cookies, web pixels, Google Analytics and a plethora of assessment tools. As a result, an advertiser can now examine granular business intelligence as easily as taking a panoptic view of an entire campaign. Contemporary platforms can allow a campaign manager to ascertain if one particular person looked at a given ad, for how long and on what device. Furthermore, the advertiser could find out where the ad visitor lived, who their social media connections were, their hobbies & interests and hundreds of other data points.

Space – The Final Frontier

But somewhat inevitably, along with all this tech comes the possibility of it being exploited by dishonest and malicious actors for fraudulent or simply malevolent purposes. One such example is the admittedly very clever and efficient Xindi AdBot– so named after hostile aliens from the show Star Trek. Hostile or not, it probably wouldn’t have stopped the original series’ Captain Kirk from trying to seduce one of those female aliens, but that’s another story…

Xindi is a shadowy platform that targets corporate users by installing itself from advanced phishing emails. It avoids detection because all it does is load (invisible to the human eye) adverts in the background of a web page. Combined with infiltration strategies such as social engineering, drive-by downloads, phishing and malware, it simply installs itself onto host computers, then visits lots of adverts. No big deal, huh? Apart from the fact that the adverts are being paid for by advertisers who pay Xindi’s owners for impressions and clicks. The fact that these pay-per-click (PPC) visits are performed by Bots, but no human can actually ever view the ads themselves, is the point. Advertisers are paying hundreds of dollars or Euros, or whatever currency, per month, for a complete scam. The adverts are never seen by any humans, let alone potential customers.

One way for any business to avoid being targeted by malware like Xindi, and don’t forget there are many much worse nasty bugs out there, is to use a VPN (virtual private network) combined with the use of US residential proxies.  Residential proxy servers are available either as a fixed product – whereby a business can rent a static single proxy, or rotate from a pool of them located in various national or international locations.

The idea of a residential proxy server is to make it seem as if a business is accessing the internet as a private individual as opposed to an enterprise. There are several reasons for this, ranging from security, such as avoiding malware and hacking attempts that target businesses and larger organizations – to enabling testing of search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and the ability to both test and avoid dynamic pricing techniques. That seems like a lot to take in. Let’s look at the reasons for residential proxy servers one at a time:

Residential Proxies for Security

Hackers prefer to target corporations and SMEs (small & medium-sized enterprises) for purely financial motives, or often for their own ‘ethical’ agendas. For example, a hacker might not like a peanut butter manufacturing company using palm oil in their products because the forests ravaged for that raw material makes Orangutans homeless and they are facing extinction. So the hacker seeks to bring down the company’s pay portal on their website with a denial of service (DoS) attack. As Chuck Berry sang: “Too much monkey bizness…”

If the company doesn’t use residential proxy servers, it’s easy for the hacker to identify the IP (internet protocol) addresses of which servers to hit. But a residential proxy puts an encrypted ‘middleman’ server in between the company’s actual server and that which website visitors can ‘see’ online.

Servers for SEO Strategies

Some businesses might want to use certain key phrases to capture search engines’ attention for various purposes in disparate geographical locations. For example, in North Dakota and Minnesota, soft drinks are known as ‘pop’, whereas on the West Coast, the beverage is referred to as ‘soda’.  To test whether the company’s marketing efforts are fizzing (sorry) in these locations means that the test searches would need to be carried out from ‘local’ servers in those regions themselves. Choosing residential proxies easily allows such testing, which would be meaningless from a centralized data center server normally used by a large corporation.

Dynamic Pricing by Region

Likewise, as well as search engine phraseology differing from place to place across the USA, so does the price of the target products. A can of soda in a Beverly Hills restaurant is likely to be advertised at a much higher price than a can of ‘pop’ in a roadside diner in Grand Rapids, MN. Again, to use automated AI to test whether the correct prices are being displayed for sale at stores in given areas, a residential proxy server is essential.

In summary, for any business to ensure cyber security and see their public face from all its geographical aspects, the most simple and efficient way forward is for them to use residential proxy servers from wherever necessary.

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