75% of internet usage will be mobile this year. As mobile usage continues to climb, so do mobile app downloads. The mobile app industry is a lucrative one, particularly Android app downloads. The Google Play Store is anticipated to exceed $139 billion in mobile app revenue by 2021.
Where there’s money to be made, naturally you’ll find the fraudsters. From human click farms to ad injections, there’s no limit to the lengths they’ll go to make a buck.
Anura, an ad fraud protection software, has the ability to see bad traffic when it first starts. They’ve discovered another way fraudsters are scoring: mobile apps.
Anura detected click attempts being made from several apps in the Google Play Store. They selected two apps to monitor over a 24-hour time period. The apps, the Lovely Rose and Oriental Beauty, were installed on a mobile device that remained in sleep mode during the time period.
Despite the device being isolated (e.g. no human activity), click logs showed 3,061 requests for an ad, and ads were granted 169. Big name brands like Snapchat and Wendy’s received these clicks, which clearly were non-human.
The majority of the affected apps are live wallpaper apps, which Anura coined the Live Fraud Paper Threat. However, fraudsters are branching out to camera apps and web browsers, too.
A single compromised app installation doesn’t seem like much, but quickly adds up when there are thousands of downloads. Our engineers scanned the top performing apps and validated there are variations of the same code, which could potentially cost advertisers anywhere between $2,000,000 to $10,000,000 daily.
Not only does mobile app fraud hurt advertisers’ budgets and brand safety, but it harms consumers, too. Consumers run the risk of data overages (depending on mobile plan and provider), being retargeted by irrelevant products, and most importantly opening themselves up to malware.
Something as simple as wallpaper apps being affected by ad fraud is just one more example why we must remain vigilant.
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