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Spotting SDK Spoofing & Mobile Ad Fraud

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Before laying any lines about Mobile Ad Fraud and SDK Spoofing, the very first thing to have in mind is that in digital marketing, fraudulent activities are financial investment for fraudsters too. To show the reality of the situation, even policymakers and governments are onto this subject matter, taking precautions and educating the sector, more info here.

What is SDK Spoofing?

If the ad campaign is juicy enough for fraudsters, they will be highly incentivized to inject themselves into the ad campaign and make money out of the CPI while also corrupting the much-needed analytics and behavioral data to be collected from real users.
When an app gets an impression or engagement, the information of it goes a long way with many stops until it becomes the attribution data in your marketing tool. Those stops can be intercepted by fraudsters to crack the encryption of that said data. If cracked, it means that fraudsters now know the inner workings of SDK’s used in the creation of the app and how the communication is encrypted between proxy stops such as back-end servers, attribution software and mobile phones.

How Mobile Ad Fraud Works

When that encryption is broken, fraudsters may send signals to prompt malicious updates to legitimate apps, making them click and impression bots. And the grim part of it is that once that communication is intercepted, every mobile phone which have that app can be affected in mere seconds, turning into fake click machines.
Since real devices are the ones manipulating the clicks and impressions, detection takes a lot of effort in comparison to bot farms or emulated devices.

Examples of SDK Spoofing & Mobile Ad Fraud

In this category, fraudsters either send harmful application updates to the devices to create background impressions, or they can manipulate the impression data of the ad network to multiply the attribution amounts or change the data as if they were other ads. Such cases are seen in the digital marketing sector which caused millions of dollars in losses along with crippling brand defamations, and unfortunately, the perpetuators mostly walking away.

Click Injection and Fake Installs

Most of the time, fraudsters attempt to position themselves between genuine people and the app. That way, they can extort information by taking advantage of the security cracks in the SDK’s which every app comprises of. Fake installs happen not directly from trusted app stores, thanks to their security incentives but fraudsters can manipulate the target for updates to shady sites masquerading as trusted ones. After this process, click injection tactics start to create thousands of clicks per day without the knowledge of the device user.

The Impact of SDK Spoofing and Mobile Ad Fraud

SDK Spoofing became a big problem in this sector not by its fake click and impression creation, but because of its sophistication and wide utilization practices.
Situations that may become unresolvable for every partner and user in the chain, to the point where that malicious app update which was secretly installed imitating the real app stores, turning every future app downloaded into spyware (Proxy Fraud Machine situation).

How to Spot (and block) Mobile Ad Fraud Clicks

Naturally, the battery of the infected device gets drained faster and mobile data limits are wasted while the devices are under this fraudulent activity. Also, expecting solution from end-users is somewhat impossible. Even though an unnatural number of clicks are generated via this mobile fraud, the origin being a genuine user’s phone clouds the data. A good anti-fraud solution which has the ability to compare detailed user data with sector standards becomes a must in combatting this issue.

The Best Fraud Prevention Solutions

For any other form of ad fraud, analyzing the data from the attribution data provided by the advertisement company would be enough and at any time, advertisers can take action and find out about the fraud by looking for abnormalities or comparing them with healthy attributions. But in the case of SDK spoofing, it all starts from the beginning.
Bearing everything to mind up to this point, the best method against this type of fraud is to avert fraudsters by making your ad campaign less profitable for them. Finding and changing the SDK’s utilized in an app and by the ad provider might help the ad campaign become cost-inefficient for the fraudsters, thus fending them off.

Final Words

Getting insight on the inner workings of the SDK’s and abnormalities in statistics are the prime tactics against fighting this form of mobile ad fraud. Adding more complex encryption methods and following the guidelines provided by genuine app stores is also a must for this issue. Preventive actions such as obtaining genuine user-base statistics and checking the trends and keywords which attract fraudsters will also go a long way. To learn more about this topic and know the weak points in your ad campaign, get in touch with Interceptd and book a free demo now.

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