Mobile Ad Fraud Detection and Mobile Ad Fraud Prevention – Why Both Matter

As more and more marketers focus time and resources on mobile ad fraud, it’s important to talk about the best mix of approaches to protect your business. Broadly, there are two different kinds of fraud actions marketers and their mobile advertising partners can take:

  1. Fraud Detection Approaches: Fraud detection refers to technology and approaches designed to spot fraud and fraudulent activity in your data. Detection is about doing things after the fact of fraud.
  2. Fraud Prevention Approaches : Fraud prevention refers to ways in which we stop fraud from occurring or impacting our data. Prevention is about doing things before the fact of fraud.

These two concepts entered consumer pop culture in the US over the past several months as identity theft and identity fraud companies poked fun at competitors that focused on one or another approach. Here’s an example of one such ad.

While this commercial above discounts the value of detection as part of one’s protection strategy, the reality is that both detection and prevention play a critical role in protecting an individual or a business from fraud. In the context of the app industry, both detection and prevention play critical roles in protecting your marketing investments. Let’s explore the role that each should play for you.

The Key Role of Ad Fraud Detection

App fraud can affect your business in a variety of ways:

  • It can rob your business of marketing investment
  • It reduces your revenue and ability to monetize your IP
  • It creates major inaccuracies in your data
  • It inhibits your ability to optimize based on performance

Ad fraud detection helps to mitigate some of these dangers by identifying suspect actions so that marketers see them and can follow up. By constantly examining your marketing data for anomalies, suspicious patterns, and potentially fraudulent installs, events and purchases, fraud detection helps you to identify risks to your business along with pinpointing specific results that should be questioned or disputed.

With detection, the key to being able to spot possible fraudulent activity is granular data. We learn about bad actors and fraud tactics through ad fraud detection. The challenge of fraud detection is that the advertiser learns about fraud after it has impacted your business. It’s a great discovery tool, but does nothing to protect the advertiser from fraud as it occurs.

Different advertisers have different approaches to iPhone and Android ad fraud detection. One Singular innovation, is the ability to set alerts that will notify you when data anomalies warrant your attention.

The Key Role of Ad Fraud Prevention

Enter fraud prevention. Prevention helps protect a business by blocking fraud from affecting your business, data and bottom line. Some examples of ad fraud prevention include:

  • Automatically blocking IP addresses known to be used by cloud computing services from submitting app install or purchase signals. Such IP addresses don’t represent mobile web traffic — ergo, we know signals from them are likely fraudulent.
  • Blocking fraudulent sub-publishers from claiming app installs or post-install revenue events.
  • Automatically flagging any traffic whose timing indicates click spamming or the like.

Marketers love prevention strategies because these stop fraud before it occurs. This is clearly preferable to having to demand refunds or other corrective action from partners. Prevention is thus great when a business is under assault from previously detected fraudsters and fraud methodologies/

That said, prevention is far less effective at protecting an advertiser from new, rare, or more advanced fraud tactics. That’s because prevention by definition presupposes that a platform has been set to spot and block actions. That requires foreknowledge. New types of signals and patterns are much harder to prevent from impacting an Android or iPhone app business.

A Symbiotic Relationship Between Detection and Prevention

When you get granular and examine detection and prevention as concepts, it’s easy to see why both play a role in a robust anti-fraud strategy. Prevention can provide a barrier against known fraudulent actors and approaches, while detection can help identify new risks while ensuring that you can take corrective action where necessary to ensure the veracity of your data and revenue figures. In turn, detection can spot new forms of fraud that can then be stopped with new prevention approaches, rules and tactics.

Singular’s Approach: Fraud Detection AND Prevention

Singular offers an industry-leading fraud solution that you can learn more about right here. For a capsule summary of some of the steps we take to detect and prevent fraud for our clients, read on.

Unlike some players in the attribution and analytics space, who focus on the easier and less costly detection side of anti-fraud, Singular combines detection and prevention in its antifraud offerings, with a robust emphasis on both approaches.

Singular monitors the flow of data into our platform, constantly evaluation all of the signals for signs of fraudulent activity such as illegitimate networks, IP addresses, devices, mismatches in targeting, and more.

In terms of purchase verification, Singular verifies every in-app purchase (IAP) with the appropriate app store to ensure that you recognize revenue from every reported purchase. With full uninstall insights right in the platform, Singular helps you identify sources and campaigns with suspiciously high uninstall rates. These are just a few of the ways that Singular helps protect our clients from fraud.

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Singular’s New Anti-Fraud Improvements
Learn about Singular’s new Enhanced Fraud Protections. See how working with Singular can help protect and defend your business. Click for details.
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Another key fraud advantage for Singular is the scale of its client footprint. Singular’s client base of many of the largest players in gaming, retail, travel, on demand services and other verticals gives us a massive data footprint to examine so that we can stay ahead of the curve and provide unprecedented levels of protections for our valued clients. With this extraordinary visibility into a large portion of the mobile app industry, Singular can detect and create prevention regimens with extraordinary speed and thoroughness as fraud approaches emerge and evolve.

Singular’s outstanding visibility into BOTH the ad performance and spend sides of the install category gives us unique advantages in detecting and protecting clients from fraud. Our fraud detection and fraud prevention technologies are a mix of the best known techniques today as well unique proprietary techniques only we can offer.

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Download the Singular Fraud Index

SIngular has just released its 2017 Singular Fraud Index, which reveals the mobile industry’s Most Secure Ad Networks. The Index is the first study of its kind to examine ad fraud data collected from multiple ad fraud prevention solutions, each with its own set of proprietary detection methods. Drawing on this unique dataset, the study exposes the effectiveness of today’s most common anti-fraud mechanisms as well as the 25 ad networks driving the lowest rates of digital advertising fraud.

Get your free copy here.
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Ad Fraud Tutorial Series: What is Ad Fraud?

Definition: Ad fraud is the practice of deliberately attempting to drive ad impressions that have no potential of being seen by a real person. Digital ad fraud is a crime – it is deliberate, premeditated, and designed to rob advertisers of value for their advertising spend.

Digital Ad Fraud v. Bot Impressions

Much ad fraud is driven by bots – software designed to automate repetitive tasks online. Google, for example, uses bots to examine millions of pages and apps every day to understand what content they offer. They use this data so they can deliver the best possible results with their search engines.

Google bots are obviously not malicious. They are not designed to defraud advertisers, though it is possible that a Google bot can trigger an ad impression while doing its job.

Bot-driven ad fraud is different. These bots are deliberately developed to load ad views so that the criminal entity earns advertising dollars. So, impressions delivered to bots are not necessarily ad fraud. It is the malicious intent that makes some of them fraudulent.

How Digital Ad Fraud is Perpetrated

There are a multitude of ad fraud tactics, which include:

  • Bots that secretly take over consumer PCs and spawn pageviews unseen by the user.
  • Networks of hijacked computers (“botnets”) that fake consumer traffic.
  • Virtual machines that mimic consumer-used PCs and rapidly spawn thousands of pageviews.
  • Videos that automatically play but which are extremely small or even invisible on the page.
  • Software that emulates multiple clicks occurring every time a consumer makes a real click.

These are just a few of the methods used. Ad fraud, and fraud detection, is a continuing arms race, with each protection breakthrough spawning an innovative approach to perpetrating fraud.

How Prevalent is Ad Fraud?

All researchers who have studied ad fraud identify it as a significant amount of total web traffic. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and online fraud detection firm, White Ops, conducted one of the largest industry studies, in which data showed that 11% of display and 23% of video impressions were caused by bots and botnets. Another leading industry association, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), stated that almost 36% of web traffic was fake.

———–

Download the Singular Fraud Index

SIngular has just released its 2017 Singular Fraud Index, which reveals the mobile industry’s Most Secure Ad Networks. The Index is the first study of its kind to examine fraud data collected from multiple fraud prevention solutions, each with its own set of proprietary detection methods. Drawing on this unique dataset, the study exposes the effectiveness of today’s most common anti-fraud mechanisms as well as the 25 ad networks driving the lowest rates of fraud.

Get your free copy here.

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Protecting Yourself

It is important to be vigilant as regards monitoring for signs of fraud. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that:

  • Anti-Fraud Tools: Some attribution and analytics suites offer tools to help advertisers identify and prevent fraud. SIngular, for example, automatically offers many protections. Such tools may use signals like IP addresses, click and install pattern detection, and fraudulent activity monitoring to pinpoint campaigns, partners and buying models that are driving fraudulent app installs.
  • Common Sense: A deal that sounds too good to be true is likely to result in low-quality app installs.
  • Focusing Resources on Trusted Partners: Large or niche vertical media companies are more likely to have the scale and resources to detect and prevent fraud. Further, properties like social networks can leverage user account information to help ensure that installs come from legitimate people.
  • Leveraging Retention and Uninstall Data: By comparing the set of user traffic attracted by different media companies, brands can learn a lot about user quality. Low user retention or high uninstall rates increasingly are seen as signals of possible fraudulent activity.
  • Use ROI Analytics as a Primary KPI:.  Arguably, the best KPI to monitor and prevent fraud is ROI, or revenue divided by cost, as it is particularly difficult for fraudsters to simulate a sale, especially because most marketing analytics platforms — including Singular — verify in-app purchases with App Stores.

Singular and Ad Fraud

Singular offers an industry-leading fraud solutions that you can learn more about right here. For a capsule summary of some of the steps we take to detect and prevent fraud for our clients, read on.

At Singular, our unprecedented visibility into BOTH the ad performance and spend sides of the install category gives us unique advantages in detecting and protecting clients from fraud. Our fraud detection and fraud prevention technologies are a mix of the best known techniques today as well unique proprietary techniques only we can offer.

———–

Singular’s New Anti-Fraud Improvements

Learn about Singular’s new Enhanced Fraud Protections. See how working with Singular can help protect and defend your business. Click for details.

————

Singular monitors the flow of data into our platform, looking for signs of fraudulent activity such as illegitimate networks, IP addresses, devices, mismatches in targeting, and more. Further, Singular verifies every in-app purchase (IAP) with the appropriate app store to ensure that you recognize revenue from every reported purchase. With full uninstall insights right in the platform, Singular helps you identify sources and campaigns with suspiciously high uninstall rates. These are just a few of the ways that Singular helps protect our clients from fraud.

Singular enables data-oriented advertisers to connect, measure, and optimize siloed marketing data, giving them the most vital insights they need to drive ROI. The unified analytics platform tracks over $7 billion in digital marketing spend to revenue and lifetime value across industries including commerce, travel, gaming, entertainment and on-demand services.

Ad Fraud Tutorial Series: What are App Install Farms?

As the iOS and Android app business grows, we are seeing more and more bad actors attempt to perpetrate advertising fraud on our industry.

This series of Singular blog posts is designed to provide brief tutorials more mobile device app advertisers on some of the key ways that advertising fraud is committed, as well as provide advice on how to reduce or mitigate the risk to your app business.


App Install Farms and App Store Rankings
“Farms” have been around almost as long as the digital industry. In the PC-centric Internet era, “click farms” were used to manipulate site rankings and affiliate marketing programs by artificially increasing click counts. In fact, click farms were for a time so prevalent that spoof sites like this grew enormously popular as a reaction. As mobile and mobile apps have come to dominate the digital space, a different class of “farm” has emerged in a big way: app install farms.


An app install farm uses a team of people (or technology) to install, launch, and then uninstall apps from devices. The process is then repeated by the farm employee so that it appears that an app is being installed by many people when the reality is that each install is fraudulent.

———-

Download the Singular Fraud Index

SIngular has just released its 2017 Singular Fraud Index, which reveals the mobile industry’s Most Secure Ad Networks. The Index is the first study of its kind to examine fraud data collected from multiple fraud prevention solutions, each with its own set of proprietary detection methods. Drawing on this unique dataset, the study exposes the effectiveness of today’s most common anti-fraud mechanisms as well as the 25 ad networks driving the lowest rates of fraud.  

Get your free copy here.

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Early on, app install farms were knowingly used by some unscrupulous app publishers to manipulate rankings on the Apple App Store and Google Play. By radically increasing the install count for an app, an app install farm could help an app secure a top ten ranking. Top ranking g radically elevates the profile of an app and often drives many (legitimate) installs because consumers assume the app is strong.


Over time, the app stores caught on to this flagrant attempt to manipulate their data, so they adjusted their algorithms to reward brands that drive persistent installs and penalize brands that exhibit high immediate uninstall rates.


App Install Farms and Advertising Fraud

Today’s app store farms often help bad actor media companies artificially increase the number of ad-driven installs for a brand. Here’s how it works in 5 steps:

  1. The person first clicks on an ad for an app on each of the N devices s/he manipulates
  2. They then install the app on one of the app stores
  3. Then, when the app is downloaded, they launch the app to register the install with the brand or attribution provider
  4. They then uninstall the app
  5. Once uninstalled, they click on another ad and begin the process again

The team at a farm would be paid to click ads, then install an app and launch it, so that the media company could register a new install for payment under cost-per-install media schemes.

Driving false installs in this manner can be very profitable for the farmer/fraudster because Android and iPhone app publishers are often invest a great deal of money for installs. Industry estimates of the average cost of an install vary, but most estimates place the worldwide average at around $2. If an app farm worker could operate 100 devices and drive 25 installs per day per device, that means they could generate $5,000 per day for the farm.

Farm-based artificial installs have no value to an advertiser because they don’t represent the actions of consumers, yet they are likely to cost just as much as legitimate installs. That’s why it is so important to detect and prevent them.


App Install Farms Around the World

When we use the term app install farm, we are usually referring to an arrangement where people are used to install, launch, and uninstall apps. Because this is a labor-intensive job, but requires no formal education, such farms are far more likely to exist in developing countries than in the US or the European Union. However, some farms use technology to drive the installs rather than manual labor. Thusm these criminal enterprises exist all over the world.


App Install Farms and the “Ad Fraud Arms Race”

Battling against fraud is a constantly changing proposition because every time legitimate businesses find a way to detect and prevent fraud, fraudsters change their methods. For example, the classic app install farm formula – of rapidly installing, then launching, then uninstalling, and then repeating the process – meant that many installs were being credited to a single device advertising ID (IDFA or Google Advertising ID)

As advertisers began to block large numbers of installs from the same device advertising ID, fraudsters simply added an ID reset to their workflow. Now savvy anti-fraud actors must monitor their data for lots of new device IDs in addition to multiple installs on a single ID.

Protecting Yourself

It is important to be vigilant as regards monitoring for signs of advertising fraud. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that:

  • Anti-Fraud Tools: Some attribution and analytics suites offer tools to help advertisers identify and prevent fraud. SIngular, for example, automatically offers many protections. Such tools may use signals like IP addresses, click and install pattern detection, and activity monitoring to pinpoint campaigns, partners and buying models that are driving suspicious app installs.
  • Common Sense: A deal that sounds too good to be true is likely to result in low-quality app installs.
  • Focusing Resources on Trusted Partners: Large or niche vertical media companies are more likely to have the scale and resources to detect and prevent fraud. Further, properties like social networks can leverage user account information to help ensure that installs come from legitimate people.
  • Leveraging Retention and Uninstall Data: By comparing the set of user traffic attracted by different media companies, brands can learn a lot about user quality. Low user retention or high uninstall rates increasingly are seen as signals of possible fraudulent activity.
  • Use ROI Analytics as a Primary KPI:.  Arguably, the best KPI to monitor and prevent fraud is ROI, or revenue divided by cost, as it is particularly difficult for fraudsters to simulate a sale, especially because most marketing analytics platforms — including Singular — verify in-app purchases with App Stores.

Fighting advertising fraud isn’t easy, which is why so many companies turn to companies like Singular for help.

Singular and Ad Fraud

Singular offers an industry-leading fraud solutions that you can learn more about right here. For a capsule summary of some of the steps we take to detect and prevent fraud for our clients, read on.

At Singular, our unprecedented visibility into BOTH the ad performance and spend sides of the install category gives us unique advantages in detecting and protecting clients from fraud. Our fraud detection and fraud prevention technologies are a mix of the best known techniques today as well unique proprietary techniques only we can offer.

Singular monitors the flow of data into our platform, looking for signs of fraudulent activity such as illegitimate networks, IP addresses, devices, mismatches in targeting, and more. Further, Singular verifies every in-app purchase (IAP) with the appropriate app store to ensure that you recognize revenue from every reported purchase.

———–

Singular’s New Anti-Fraud Improvements

Learn about Singular’s new Enhanced Fraud Protections. See how working with Singular can help protect and defend your business. Click for details.