Labhit Agarwal


Know the Difference Series: Click Spamming and Click Injection Explained

Digital ad fraud is growing at breakneck speed. This year, marketers are expected to lose over $100 billion to ad fraud collectively. The situation is scary, and the future seems bleak. However, many marketers and brands still successfully turn a blind eye to ad fraud, and they do it because of a lack of awareness. Awareness of the different types of ad fraud can help you be more vigilant and cautious towards the rising threats and help you save your ad budgets from getting wasted. With this blog, we hope to help you bring this awareness. As part of the “Know the Difference series”, first, we will discuss two of the most common types of mobile ad fraud prevalent in the industry. These are click spamming and click injection. While both terms may seem similar, they follow different procedures to carry out ad fraud and steal your marketing budget. Let’s look at them in more detail: Know the difference: Click Spamming and Click Injection What is Click Spamming? Click spamming is a relatively primitive way to commit ad fraud. As the name suggests, click spamming is the act of generating a large number of fake clicks on an ad. This type of fraud mostly takes place on mobile apps but isn’t limited to them. In some cases, click spamming can also be observed on websites accessed through mobile devices. In most cases, an unsuspecting user downloads an app laced with malware. In others, the websites visited by the users are operated by fraudsters. The malware allows fraudsters to click on ads without the user’s knowledge. This kind of fraud can take many forms. Some examples are: The user never sees the ads, but they are live in the background, and the fraudsters are clicking on them. This is also known as click flooding. Apps running in the background can generate clicks anytime or throughout the day (and night). Common examples of such apps include launchers, battery-saving apps, and memory-cleaner apps. Some fraudsters mask views as engagement by the user and get paid for that engagement. And in some cases, fraudsters may also send clicks from the device to different vendors to collect a payout. While Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store have security measures to detect and ban apps loaded with malware, fraudsters have found innovative ways to bypass them. For instance, some apps download malware after the app has been downloaded on a user’s device by disguising it as an update for the app. Impact of Click Spamming The most apparent impact of click spamming is the wasted advertising budget. However, click spamming has a deeper, much more dangerous impact on advertisers- skewed advertising data. Because of click spamming, certain advertising platforms and apps (publishers) may deliver an impressive number of clicks on your ad. When this is reflected in the reporting of your campaigns, it may make said ad platforms and publishers appear more impactful than they are. This keeps the advertisers in the dark and they make business decisions based on these skewed metrics which eventually impacts the performance of the digital ad campaigns. Moreover, the advertisers also keep spending on these platforms under the impression that it is providing them with performance. What is Click Injection? Click injection is an ad fraud technique similar to click spamming but more sophisticated. For advertisers, that means that detecting and avoiding instances of click injection is exponentially more difficult than detecting click spamming. Instead of frantically clicking on an ad, click injection uses a single click to conduct organic traffic poaching. This is done by ‘injecting’ a click right at the point of download. Fraudsters make use of Android apps to listen to “download broadcasts”. Simply put, these broadcasts are sent by Android apps whenever a user downloads a malicious app that has an Android broadcaster that notifies the fraudsters about a new install. When the fraudsters are notified of an app install, they ‘inject’ a click right before the installation is complete. When this happens, the fraudulent app gets access to the user’s unique device tracking code. Using this code, the fraudsters can make their click appear authentic. By doing this, the fraudsters receive the credit (and the payout) for the app install, even though the app install is usually organic. Impact of Click Injection This sophisticated fraud technique not only leads to the wastage of ad spending but also hampers the organic traffic of the advertiser. Not just the advertisers, but the genuine publishers are also victims of click injection. Due to organic traffic stealing, they lose payout to a fraudulent install. Furthermore, click injections attribute organic downloads to fraudulent websites and apps. This can mess with the ad reporting data advertisers use to make decisions about their future campaigns. Using this skewed data, advertisers may continue spending their budgets on ineffective platforms, resulting in more wasted ad spend. This also costs advertisers in the form of lost opportunities by diverting their attention from other effective platforms that may deliver better results. How can advertisers protect their ad spends? As mentioned earlier, protection begins with awareness. Now that you know about click spamming and click injection, you can look at ways to detect these activities and take corrective actions. While click spamming can be detected manually, click injection is a sophisticated form of mobile ad fraud that is hard to detect by humans. These sophisticated fraud techniques are discreet, and human-like which makes it difficult to detect with general ad fraud detection practices. For these reasons, marketers valuing holistic protection must look beyond basic ad fraud tracking techniques to prevent mobile ad fraud. mFilterIt’s advanced ad fraud detection tool helps eliminate invalid traffic across the funnel using AI/ML and data science capabilities. The solution identifies sophisticated fraud patterns based on device, behavioral, and heuristic checks and ensures that the fraudulent traffic doesn’t seep through the funnel. Conclusion Click fraud and click injection both affect marketers at multiple levels. Wasting their current advertising budgets to skewing campaign performance data that leads to subpar optimization

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Guard Your Wicket: Why Digital Advertisers Need to Be Vigilant Amidst The Cricket Fever?

The Cricket Fever is Unstoppable!   From IPL to the World Cup, the audience goes all gaga to see their favorite teams playing. The advertising world also goes into a frenzy during this time and wants to capture the attention of the “Cricket Heads”. The pitch might be clear on the ground, but the pitch in the advertising world has hurdles at every step.   While the advertiser spends meticulously, the fraudsters also look forward to stealing their money and having a gala time. Over the years, these scamsters have evolved and adapted more advanced techniques to steal the advertiser’s money.   In this blog, we have covered some of the advanced techniques of ad fraud and brand safety threats happening across the gaming and betting industry which is most impacted during the major sports events. Digital Threats During Sports Events 1. Rise in Fake Accounts The IPL and World Cup season is much awaited in the advertising world as gaming/betting advertisers spend heavily to ensure they are part of the game. However, the advertisers are hardly able to make a sixer during this time as the scamsters are also ready to make them go clean bowled. They are the most active during this time and look for all the best opportunities to steal the ad spends of the advertisers. And one of their easy-to-execute techniques is using disposal email addresses and phone numbers to create fake accounts.   Here is an insight from an analysis done for a leading gaming app: Based on the data extracted, mFilterIt detected sign-ups occurring from similar-looking email addresses in less than a minute interval. This activity was suspicious, and we detected the patterns to identify bot activity which was eventually impacting the performance of the gaming advertiser.   These disposable email addresses and numbers are also used by fraudsters to commit referral or coupon fraud which eventually hurts the brand’s image among loyal consumers. The brands run referral programs to bring in new users and retain loyal users. However, due to fraudsters’ involvement, these programs are often manipulated, and genuine users cannot use these benefits further blaming the brands. 2. Event Spoofing Beyond the misuse of disposable email addresses and phone numbers, the fraudsters have another winning move that can help them win the cup (in this case advertisers’ ad spends). They use advanced fraud techniques like SDK spoofing to commit event spoofing.   In this case, the scamsters often manipulate the events like sign-ups to get their payout. The advertisers are under the impression that their apps are being downloaded by genuine users, but the reality tampers. The publisher receives their payout, but the advertiser neither gets the genuine audience nor the growth. 3. Use of Misleading Ads The last season of IPL saw a massive surge in misleading and manipulated ads run by fraudulent affiliates/influencers to lure innocent users. ASCI flagged 285 real-money gaming ads on social media on the account of violation of the ASCI guidelines of March’22. Furthermore, 14 ads were found as violating ASCI during the IPL on both Television and OTT. This year, the government has become more stringent about the ads run by gaming and betting platforms. There has been a rise in cases where these platforms leverage news content or eCommerce promotions as a disguise for betting-related advertisements.   The game season is the best time for fraudsters to leverage the brand’s name to commit fraud and enjoy the benefits. Whereas the brands have to pay the price in the form of wasted ad budget and tarnished brand image resulting in loss of consumer trust. 4. Brand Reputation at Risk Misleading ads by fraudulent affiliates are a real problem. Another behind-curtain fraudulent practice is where the brand’s ads run on illicit or adult websites.   An ad of a legitimate brand appearing beside obscene content is a brand safety nightmare. In this situation, often the consumers assume that the brands have placed their ad beside illicit content consciously and they are not concerned about their consumer’s safety. This leaves a deep impact on the brand’s reputation as the consumer questions the reliability of the brand. 5. Organic Traffic Stealing Apart from misusing digital brand assets, these Sports events are also the “hattrick season” for fraudulent affiliates/publishers. During this time, usually, the brands put money on search advertisements introducing “exciting offers”. The fraudsters use this moment as an opportunity.   They bid on the brand’s keywords to appear above the “legitimate brand” in the search results and divert their organic traffic to their website resulting in organic traffic stealing. This also increases the bid prices of the brand keywords and the bhas have to pay more for their branded keywords. Don’t Be ‘Clean Bowled’ this Season Sporting events have been the “festival of joy” for fraudsters as advertisers spend heavily during this time. To safeguard the ad budgets and protect the brand reputation, the advertisers need an advanced solution to validate ad traffic and ensure that the ad is placed in a safe environment.   mFilterIt provides advertisers with this transparency to make efficient business decisions. With cutting-edge and innovative media validation solutions, advertisers can validate their ad traffic and eliminate invalid traffic to target only the audience that matters. It also helps the advertisers to ensure their ads are placed in a GARM-compliant environment and are protected from brand safety threats.   Take quick action to make the best out of these sporting events in 2023!

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Know How Your Brand is Under Threat Due to Incent Campaigns

Marketers have come a long way in the journey of advertising. In traditional advertising, marketers use mediums like television, radio, and billboards to advertise. These mediums were effective but had their limitations. With traditional advertising, targeting the right audience has always been a black box. Digital advertising came with a broader opportunity for advertisers. It has helped brands to reach the right audience and track the performance to optimize the campaigns better. As digital advertising broadened its horizon, many options came into the limelight. One of them being affiliate marketing. Let’s understand Affiliate marketing in detail: What is Affiliate Marketing? Affiliate marketing is the method of marketing where an affiliate earns a commission from the advertiser against every action taken by the customer. Affiliates either run PPC campaigns to drive users to the advertiser’s website or use their audience or influence to increase the awareness of the advertiser’s product. The Shift in The Advertising World Digital advertising has evolved drastically over the past few years. Earlier digital advertising was limited to search and display campaigns. Today, marketers are broadening their horizons by considering varied advertising opportunities in the digital space. Many social media-based campaigns or incent campaigns have also emerged as a possibility for digital advertising. Incentivized campaigns are often referred to as a form of advertisement where every action is driven in exchange for a reward. For example, download an app and get Rs. 50 cashback. The loophole in Incent Campaigns Many affiliates run incentive campaigns to increase their revenue and fool the advertisers. They run incent campaigns on messaging platforms like Telegram and WhatsApp to reach a larger audience and make the advertisers think they are getting high traffic. Incent campaigns sound like a win-win situation for marketers as it helps them grab more users. However, in reality, only the affiliates win. How do affiliates keep you in the dark? 1. Showing High Installs The affiliates use incentive campaigns to lure users into installing the app in exchange for a reward. This way the affiliates help the advertisers get high installs and make them believe their campaign is performing well. However, the users installing the app are often interested in the reward instead of the app. The users often uninstall the app after a few days, resulting in a high uninstall rate and low lifetime value. In the end, the advertisers fail to connect with genuinely interested users and waste their budget on paying affiliates for installs that don’t add value to the business. 2. Faking Events To grab the interest of users, affiliates post offers with incorrect messaging. They often use shiny offers to lure customers into taking action to ensure they meet the KPIs. For example, “Make your first transaction and get Rs. 30 instant cashback”. Based on this, the advertiser makes the payment to affiliates based on events received. (In this case, making the transaction). However, the quality of users is low as they take the action only to avail the benefit. Real Case of One of the largest private sector Bank of India Incentivized campaigns were live on Telegram for one of the largest private sector banks in India where users were lured into downloading the app by offering them cashback. Users were also asked to do a 1 Re transaction so that publishers’ KPI could be met. Some of the messages we found on telegram groups: Solution Against Incent Fraud We at mFilterIt use our advanced brand hygiene protection solution to track the platforms running incent campaigns. Using our capabilities of AI, ML, and data science, we provide a transparent report of the affiliates running incent campaigns on Telegram and WhatsApp groups. Using our report, the brands can either penalize or block the fraudulent affiliate. Collaborate with Confidence Affiliate marketing is a strong channel of marketing to widen your audience reach. With the right partner to detect fraudulent affiliates, you can partner confidently and take your business growth in the right direction and leverage the benefits of affiliate marketing

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