The Condition of Mobile Ad Fraud 2021

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-What is Ad Fraud?

Ad fraud is the term for the advertisement mediums directing and manipulating ads in shady and deceptive means. Besides harming the ad campaign via non-organic and not profitable interactions, Ad fraud also injures consumer/product owner relationships. While one side of this issue consists of tricking the consumer into a page or an application with hidden ads, auto-clicking ads, or misleading information about the mobile product, the other side punctures the holes in the ad budget by taking advantage of bots that drains the final success revenue and reliability of the precious ad statistics which could be utilized in later campaigns.


-Ad Fraud Stats – 2020-2021

Ad fraud, a deceptively non-immediate but hidden-in-detail threat, is already wreaking havoc on many ad campaigns throughout the whole world. As we look at the statistics of the year 2020, we can see that digital Ad fraud, incorporated with Mobile Ad Fraud, vanished away 35 Billion U.S. Dollars (Source: Statista) from the pockets of product owners.

The amount of invisible losses is always mitigated no matter which market you are in and whether your loss is small. In this case, we are talking about something not that small. Ad fraud took away a whopping 11% of the total Ad budget and is expected to increase exponentially year by year (Source: Statista).


-2021 Trends Observed in Digital Advertising

The digital advertisement market has already changed its focus to Mobile Ads as access to smartphones became a need rather than a luxury. However, the smell of money rising from a fresh market also attracted fraudsters in this direction. As with many hard-to-notice tactics like using Bots, Click Spams and Click Injections; the Mobile Advertisement sector tried to evolve along with its fair share of attackers.


Besides the extensive mitigation of Ad Fraud, advertisers had another issue on Digital Advertising, the Data Anonymity. Product owners needed specific data to ensure that they were actually dealing with a human to get the cleanest results from an ad campaign. However, Apple’s introduction of ATT restrictions may have changed the established ways of Mobile Advertising. Apple has been using SKAdNetwork since 2018 already with similar attribution point determination related to other methods widely used against Ad Fraud with a pinch of provided anonymity. Now, the extra anonymity provided by ATT restrictions could seemingly sail on uncharted seas as the data provided by the target audience will differentiate more than ever.


-Bot Traffic

The increasing detail in countermeasure tactics against bot traffic forces the fraudsters to create bots that carry more complex tasks. Nowadays, it is nearly impossible for a non-computerized solution to determine if your campaign is affected by bot traffic. As the focus on anonymity for consumers increase, the human-machine differentiation process might be tough to carry out due to the lack of returning data. On the other hand, the anonymity option includes other interactions (ex. what kind of data to provide) in it as well, which might prove that the target is not a bot.


-Click Spamming

The success of an ad campaign, besides other things, relies on click attribution. The indication of a high click count for the ad means that the campaign is going in the right direction, at least at first glance. If you later see that the high number of clicks are not resolved with a sale, download, or install, then your ad campaign might be affected by a type of Ad Fraud called Click Spamming. This issue ultimately eats away the budget, especially as your advertiser might be trying to fill the money-per-click quota by foul means.


-Click Injection

As the mobile application market grows, the number of applications to be tested for fraud by the trusted application stores (i.e., Apple Store, Google Play) also increases. And sometimes (rarely on Apple Store, usually on third-party or shady application stores), some applications or their mirrors pass through the cracks of these anti-fraud walls. If that kind of fraud-afflicted application, in this case, with a click injection fraud, gets downloaded, it starts to generate clicks even in the install process. After that, a singled-out device becomes the puppet of ad fraud without the knowledge of its human owner. However, only with extensive backtracking to the source of download and analyzing the timing of the clicks and actions can it be singled out and blocked if the ad attribution service provides them.


-Abnormal Patterns of CTIT

Analyzing the data from Click to Install Time is a form of fraud detection and prevention method. CTIT data typically ensures that the mobile app is, in fact, downloaded and installed by an organic being and not bots. So, to fully automate and make the bots authentic and passable, fraudsters create bots with complex algorithms to mask the computed numbers and install times as humans. Fortunately, even though it is pretty tricky to diversify a complex bot from a human, it is not impossible. Following the abnormal time patterns and increasing the sample pools is vital in finding out this kind of fraud.


-SDK Spoofing

Emerging in 2017 and quite scaring the digital advertisement market with its intricacy, SDK Spoofing is a “man-in-the-middle” type of hacking ad fraud. Still thriving at the end of 2021 as the most profitable type for fraudsters, SDK spoofing works like this: The SDK Signature of the application is “untangled” by fraudsters, and this code makes the devices imitate clicks and installs. When backtracked, it even shows a genuine IP address and device info, while just one device can make your ad campaign gets a thousand disguised clicks. However, detection of this ad fraud is quite challenging, and the only appropriate action is to foolproof the mobile application.


-Final Words

As of 2021, Ad fraud continues to be a burden on advertisers. Even if the mobile applications are created with quite secure SDK’s or being advertised on trustworthy platforms, it is still likely that advertisement campaigns might be targeted by ad fraud due to the exponentially rising amount of money in this sector. To prevent and detect mobile ad fraud and make your advertisement budget not included in the 11% of the market, Interceptd is here to answer all your ad fraud-related problems, making your business keep up with the everchanging threats.


If you’d like to talk to us about robust ad fraud protection for your marketing funnel, book your free consultation demo today.

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