2020 Q1 Mobile Ad Fraud Detection

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With the evolution of technology since the past many years, there have been numerous horizons and opportunities made accessible to us. Whether it is the consumer goods industry or online buying and selling of stocks – technological advancements have certainly played a vital role in making things attainable and achievable that seemed to be too far-fetched not too long ago.

The digital ecosystem is no different either. Today, brands have acquired modern-day techniques to promote, advertise and market their product through digital platforms that directly connect with their potential customers. As smooth and effective as it may sound – the flip side is the increased accessibility the fraudsters and scammers have at their disposal for all sorts of digital ad fraud.

What is Ad Fraud?

Ad fraud, in the simplest of terms, is defined as any fraudulent attempt to generate revenue from digital advertising. This could range from fake clicks, fake app installs to false in-app actions and impressions. As far as the global impact of mobile ad fraud is concerned, according to a report, ad fraud is the second biggest organized crime – the first one being narcotics. 

Ad Fraud Stats – Q1 2020

Talking about the ad fraud statistics in the first quarter of 2020, the numbers and trends are as alarming as they were predicted to be by our experts at Interceptd. Ad and click fraud has evolved to even greater heights with the use of much more sophisticated and advanced mechanisms to steal money from organic sources. As far as the rejection rate is concerned, below is the diagram that shows all that happened within this specific category during this time:


As far as the flagged occurrences are concerned, Interceptd recorded the following trends for the first quarter of 2020:


CTIT, Click Spamming and fake IPs are on the rise amongst fraudsters who keep on sucking lots of advertisers and publishers money from the advertising funnel. As far as the flag percentage is concerned, take a look at this:


One can surely argue that this is quite an unstable or unpredicted trend and this variation could be related to a number of factors. Yes, that is true to some extent, however, it does not negate the alarming proportions of the total number of occurrences during a specific time period. If you want to have a look at the trend for global fraud percentage during the Q1 2020 span, here it is:

The Feb onwards upward trend should be a clear sign of worry for digital advertising organizations and marketers. This means that the year 2020 did start on a relatively quieter note when it comes to ad and click fraud, mobile fraud, mobile install attribution fraud, etc. However, the first week of Feb showed a rapid increase in fraudulent activities in the digital advertising ecosystem, thus creating challenges for brands worldwide.

2020 Trends Observed in Digital Advertising

During the first quarter of 2020, the digital advertising arena witnessed a number of elements and areas that directly impacted the marketers and organizations globally. Here are some of the key ad fraud types that the marketers need to look out for going into Q2:

  • Bot Traffic
  • Click Spamming
  • Click Injection
  • Abnormal patterns of CTIT 
  • SDK Spoofing

Bot Traffic

In recent times, bots and emulators have played a huge role as far as global mobile ad fraud is concerned. You might have heard about the term ‘smart bot’ and ‘bad bot’. The bad bots are software applications designed and programmed to perform a certain set of instructions. They can effectively imitate a human’s behavior and perform malicious activities such as multiple fake clicks, simulate a real-time install and make it look like it came from a genuine source. 

Click Spamming

One of the major sources of all digital ad fraud is via click spamming. This occurs when the fraudster attempts to send a big number of fake clicks to the relevant Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP) or the mobile attribution tool with the aim to deceive through organic installs. When an install takes place, it is attributed to that fake click and the fraudster is paid for it.

Click Injection

Another common type of ad fraud is click injection. This is the method where fraudsters will steal the advertiser’s budget through the last-click association model. Numerous clicks will be sent to the attribution tool when an install begins. The MMP might attribute that specific install to a non-genuine and fake click since it was the last click that was linked to that specific install.

Abnormal Patterns of CTIT 

This metric is really important when it comes to tracking and making the best use of ad fraud techniques that you have at your disposal. The time from the first click till the app was opened – it can tell a lot about click injection or SDK spoofing. High CTIT times suggest click spamming occurrences, and low CTIT times can be a result of click injection or SDK spoofing.

It is imperative to note that a few bad occurrences does not and should not mean that the whole ad network has been affected. The overall patterns are what marketers should assess while reaching to conclusions. The Q1 stats show us that stats such as IP mismatch in regards to CTIT can play a significant role when it comes to analyzing the impact of fraudulent attempts from a broader perspective.

SDK Spoofing

This trend, like the past many months, has been on the rise this year as well. SDK spoofing is when fraudsters are able to listen to infiltrate the communication channels between ad networks and MMPs. Specific signals are then imitated after adding the desired amendments and then sent to the MMPs. Examples of these installs could be registrations, post-install actions, real installs, etc. This has certainly become one of the most common types of ad frauds and indeed very hard to detect or eliminate. 

However, if you have adequate measures in place to guard your advertisement budgets, these fraudulent activities can be detected and eradicated.  

Our Final Word on Q1 2020 Status & Ad Fraud Prevention

The start of this year has been a tough challenge for the entire world in a number of different ways, let alone digital ad fraud. The world is already fighting with a global pandemic that has affected lives all around the globe. Even in times like these, fraudsters have left no stone unturned when it comes to attempting to steal advertiser’s money through ways that have been quite effective in the past as well.

In order to minimize the impact of ad fraud techniques and methodologies, organizations can make use of all the expertise and machine learning algorithms that are out there at competitive pricing. Without a doubt, we will be heading into a more challenging Q2 where old and new mechanisms will be used to steal advertisers’ and marketers’ budgets.

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