The shift towards digital advertising brought many major changes in the way of advertising. In comparison to traditional advertising methods, digital intrusion introduced marketers to a transparent way of advertising with more control. Attribution platforms are also known to ease the task for app publishers and advertisers. They enable them to track every impression, click, install, and in-app event.
The attribution platforms attribute each install to a corresponding click based on this acquired information. However, there is a catch. The advertisers cannot solely rely on the attribution data to take business decisions. With the evolution of digital media, fraudsters have also evolved with time and have been able to create a more advanced level of fraud which requires advanced techniques to detect mobile fraud.
Types of Advanced Mobile Ad Frauds
While attribution platforms give a clear picture to the advertisers about the incoming traffic on their ad campaigns, there is still a loophole that cannot be ignored – Mobile Ad Fraud. This can lead to rendering inaccurate or misleading attribution data.
Fraudsters have become very advanced to match the ever-evolving digital ecosystem. They can inject bots that have human-like behavior and are hard to detect. In the case of app campaigns, fraudulent affiliates are adept at manipulating the attribution process and can hack the last-click attribution and claim it to be provided by them.
Whereas the reality is that they played no part in driving that app install or event. These “fraudulent affiliates are aware of the attribution mechanism and can easily fool the attribution platforms into crediting them with the install.
This is another form of sophisticated fraud where legitimate-looking installs are created by the method of SDK spoofing. This is used to show a high number of installs using the data of real devices without any actual installs happening. Fraudsters compromise a legitimate device to punch installs that look real to drain the advertiser’s budget. This method is also called traffic spoofing and replay attacks.
To commit fraud, fraudsters hack the SSL encryption that is placed between the tracking SDK and the backend servers. With the “man-in-the-middle-attack”, the fraudster creates a series of test installs for their targeted app. Once they identify the URL that controls specific actions within the app, they look for the dynamic URL to create fake installs. This can be done repeatedly and appear like a genuine activity to the advertiser.
Why MMPs are not enough?
Fraudulent techniques like fake attribution and SDK spoofing are advanced-level frauds that are hard to detect by average fraud detection methods. They require some advanced technology that can analyze the behavior of the traffic to differentiate between a bot and a human.
The biggest drawback of MMP fraud detection is they have limited rule checks. And as their billing happens on the attributed data, they often claim less fraud to increase their revenue. Thus, it results in a conflict of interest.
Therefore, marketers need a holistic ad traffic validation partner like mFilterIt to ensure that their app campaigns are protected from sophisticated fraud. We use AI, ML, and data science capabilities to detect invalid sources in real time across the funnel to ensure the sophisticated bots don’t penetrate further into the sales funnel and skew the data. To protect the app campaigns from advanced-level mobile fraud techniques like SDK spoofing, we implement our own SDK to fetch the data and validate the quality of the traffic.
We have found a recent case of misattribution where affiliates have not given any purchase and passing the invalid order ID for all the orders placed. Given below is a pictorial view of the case which happened by spoofing the data from Affiliates.
We detected anomalies by implementing our SDK and pointed out the discrepancies in the attributed data based on behavior and device checks.
The Way Ahead
The advertisers must be more vigilant, smart, and technologically armed to counter the attacks of sophisticated bots. Incorporating an ad traffic validation suite can help advertisers identify the traffic coming from non-humans and eliminate them in real-time and work confidently with media partners.