Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives recently interviewed Rich Kahn, CEO and Co-Founder of Anura. She asked him what it’s like to run his company with his wife and how his company got in on the ground floor of ad fraud solutions.
Safety Detective: What motivated you to start your company?
Rich Kahn: I have an extensive tech background, starting when I developed my first game at nine years old, and I’ve been a serial entrepreneur in the digital marketing space for as long as I can remember. I started my first company in 1993. I was always enthralled with the internet and have enjoyed watching it grow and change over the years. I sold my way through college to pay my tuition, so the combination of my tech and sales background led me to internet sales.
I had not planned to build Anura. We were running another company, which was just an ad agency on the internet, but we were facing problems with fraudulent traffic affecting our clients in the campaigns that we were buying.
In 2005, we looked for a fraud solution to solve that problem, which there were none. If a developer can’t find a solution to a problem, he will fix it himself, so I sat down and started writing code and solving the problem myself. Ten years later I realized that the market had developed a need for this type of solution. Other people wanted a solution to solve their problem as well, so we did some testing in the marketplace to make sure we had something unique. In 2017, we rolled out a standalone product that people could license and launched Anura.
SD: What is it like to run a company with your wife?
RK: In 2003, I had 10 years’ experience on the internet—mostly very technical stuff. My wife was a nurse at the time, and when I decided I wanted to start up another business, we started looking into doing it together. We’ve been together since we’re 15, and we figured we’ve accomplished a lot together as a couple—so why not a business?
SD: Tell me about your company’s ad fraud solution.
RK: We call it an ad fraud solution because there’s a big ROI to it. In fact, if you look at the numbers, from last year alone, over $65 billion was stolen from advertisers through ad fraud. Every channel has its own challenges—anywhere from tier-one search and social all the way up through affiliate-based marketing, and programmatic.
Affiliate-based marketing has some of the highest fraud. On average, affiliate marketing has somewhere between 40% and 50% fraud. Our software looks behind the screen to see who’s there. Is it a real person? Is it a bot? Is it malware? Or is it a human fraud farm that’s trying to mimic real people? We have to determine that with pinpoint accuracy. In fact, we’re the only company that we know of that’s been able to achieve greater than five-nines accuracy, or 99.999% accuracy when identifying fraud.
This is important because we play heavily in the performance marketing space and we do this in real-time. Somebody goes to fill out a form—should our client accept that form? Is this a real person? Should they charge that credit card? Should I allow them to log into my website? These are questions our solution answers every day for our clients without generating any false positives.
For example, we have clients that give away free credit scores, and one of the problems that they run into is people stealing other people’s information. They run their credit to see if the profile is somebody whose profile is worth stealing. If so, they create credit cards, loans, and take over their identities OR they’ll sell that identity on the black market.
SD: How does your company stay ahead in a world filled with all these different cybersecurity companies?
RK: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cybersecurity companies out there. In fact, I sit on the board of one of them out in Arizona, and it’s a very competitive marketplace. There’s so much cybersecurity going on that it’s a necessity to have many companies. So far, the ad fraud industry, which is really a subset of cybersecurity, has less competition, but it’s growing fast.
Right now, there are only eight certified solutions in the marketplace out of the 50-plus companies that are out there doing it. To stay ahead of the curve, our engineers build the system. This way, they know how to protect the system and what we’re looking for. We have one of our engineers try to hack around our system to try to mimic fraud and find a way to defraud our system. Once we find a way around, the whole team works together to block that attack. This, combined with machine learning and decades of experience, is what keeps us ahead of the game in the fraud space.
SD: What do you feel is the worst cyberthreat out there today?
RK: The worst cyberthreat out there is not doing anything about cyberthreats. Ransomware can be devastating to an industry or to a company, but turning a blind eye and assuming it doesn’t exist, or assuming it’s not going to happen to you, is probably the biggest threat.
SD: How do you see cybersecurity developing now that we’re living through this pandemic?
RK: Regardless of the situation we’re in today, technology is constantly evolving, and computers are getting faster and more efficient. Systems need to be constantly tested and upgraded in order to stay ahead of the curve, but it’s a constant battle.
The way crimes took place back in the old days was if you wanted to steal money, you would rob the coach that had the gold. They just held them up at gunpoint, grabbed the gold, and that was how you stole things. It was a face-to-face interaction. Even when they walked into a bank, put a gun in somebody’s face and told them to fill the bag with cash, it was a face-to-face crime. Now, it’s a very different type of crime.
In fact, there are no laws against ad fraud right now, so if you commit ad fraud, there are no laws that prevent you from doing it. There is no law to prosecute somebody for ad fraud, even if you do catch them. Catching them is the hardest part because of all the privacy laws in this country, and throughout the world. You can’t catch fraudsters because everybody’s identity is protected through privacy. You have that catch 22, where we all want our privacy, but at the end of the day, we also want to make sure that these criminals are not stealing our money, ransoming our machines or locking up our data.