Mobile App Terminology

Emulated devices

What are emulated devices?

Also referred to as simulated devices, emulated devices are software programs that give a computer the ability to mimic the behavior of another device. By simulating the behavior of another device, emulated devices, usually installed on internet-connected servers in the cloud, are used to mimic actions such as app installs and in-app human behavior. Emulated devices can be used by legitimate developers to test an app’s functionality on various devices, for example, to ensure everything works properly on iOS versus. Android, or on older devices

But emulated devices are also used maliciously in the context of mobile ad fraud.

In this case, emulated devices are used to generate fake app installs and even in-app engagement and ultimately steal an advertiser’s marketing budget. Specifically, fraudsters use emulated devices to fake clicks, installs, and other marketing-related actions … all designed to look like they came from legitimate users. Without an ad fraud prevention solution in place, advertisers may be paying these fraudsters for the install or click, especially if they’re using a CPI or CPC-based media buying campaign. In either case, mobile ad fraud prevention such as Singular provides that an advertiser’s budget is going towards legitimate users and actions.

What are the uses of emulated devices?

Emulated devices are used for both positive and negative purposes, and we’ll discuss each use case in more detail below.

Uses of emulated devices for developers
Developers use emulated developers in order to test their app’s functionality on various devices and versions of a device. These tests can also be used to ensure a quality user experience on mobile, tablet, and desktop, or on devices that the developers themselves don’t have access to. In this case, the emulated device provides a useful function of simulating how the app will behave on different devices. For example, this can be used to test for in-app bugs, verify the app works on various phone types, or improve the user experience (UX) across devices. In short, the primary use case of emulated devices for developers is to ensure an app functions properly on various devices without the need to purchase each physical device itself.

Uses of emulated devices in mobile ad fraud
While emulated devices make quality assurance (QA) on multiple devices much more efficient for developers, unfortunately, they are also prevalent in mobile ad fraud. In this context, emulated devices can repeatedly simulate human behavior such as clicks, app installs, or even complex in-app activity. This software enables fraudsters to target app advertisers, generate fake app installs and activity, and get rewarded for stealing their marketing budget.

As the fraud detection company SecuredTouch highlights, the reason emulated devices are so common in ad fraud is their flexibility and ease of use:

Flexibility helps criminals bypass detection systems since the device’s sensors can be spoofed, bypassing fingerprinting by creating new fake devices, etc. Ease of use creates a low barrier of entry for anyone willing to commit fraud; they easily run on PC or Cloud.

In order to prevent emulated devices and mobile ad fraud, marketers turn to third-party technology providers that put various preventative measures in place and reject suspicious traffic.

How Singular protects you from emulated device fraud?

With the estimated cost of global digital ad fraud expected to reach $44 billion by 2022, Singular provides industry-leading fraud prevention solutions to brands. Through a combination of ad fraud detection and prevention, brands are able to maximize their return on ad spend (ROAS) and minimize their time spent addressing this challenge themselves.

Singular takes a slightly different approach to ad fraud than other solutions by focusing primarily on prevention rather than just detection. Many companies focus their attention on detection simply because it is easier to detect fraud after it has occurred than it is to prevent it in the first place. Putting our focus on this prevention-first approach can streamline a brand’s anti-fraud investment and can often reduce the need for restitution.

In the context of emulated devices, Singular monitors all aspects of a user’s engagement, including ad metrics, ad spend, and post-install activity such as in-app behavior and purchases. As discussed in our fraud tutorial on device emulators:

Singular monitors all of the campaign and spend data in our app analytics platform, looking for signs of fraudulent activity such as illegitimate networks, fraudulent clicks, suspicious IP addresses, faked devices, mismatches in targeting, and more.

In addition to analyzing each individual client’s user metrics from a broad view, Singular uses the scale of its client base to interpret signals across a wide range of industries and app businesses. This massive data footprint and visibility into the app industry allows us to stay ahead of the curve and create prevention protocols at an unprecedented speed.

You can learn more about our suite of fraud prevention solutions here.

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