Fraud Exposed Series: Unmasking Device Spoofing and Its Impact on Advertisers!

Your ad campaign data is probably skewed. The platforms you think are driving results may be delivering numbers, but there’s a chance they may be only delivering numbers.

The reason? Ad fraud.

Ad fraud takes many forms, and device spoofing is one of the most common ones. Spoofing allows fraudsters to hide behind a veil and carry out fraudulent activities.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of awareness and ability to detect device spoofing, advertisers lose millions of dollars to ad fraud. This article will solve both of those problems.

In the upcoming sections, you will learn what device spoofing is, how it is carried out, how it impacts advertisers, and how you can protect your business from mobile ad fraud that uses device spoofing.

Let’s jump right in and start with the basics.

What is Device Spoofing?

The word “spoof” literally means “hoax” or “trick”.

Device spoofing is the act of tricking advertisers by presenting a device as a different device. Let’s understand this with a simple example.

If you are running an ad for app downloads, you are only interested in traffic coming from mobile devices. With device spoofing, fraudsters can present a server in their data center as a mobile device visiting the publisher’s website and clicking on your ad.

Fraudsters employ a variety of technical processes to achieve this. One such method is known as User Agent (UA) spoofing. The User-Agent string of every device carries many data points that are used to identify the device. These include the device make and model, processor information, location information (based on IP address), and information about the operating system running on the device. UA spoofing allows fraudsters to falsify this information.

Most advertisers also use a technique called device fingerprinting to identify the devices clicking on their ad and subsequently accessing their website or landing page. This includes going beyond the UA string and looking at additional information to identify devices. This may include GPS information, caller ID, and other technical device information like unique Android/Apple ID, graphic card information, etc.

However, using techniques similar to UA spoofing, fraudsters can fake almost every piece of information associated with a device.

Surprisingly, UA spoofing is a useful tool in software development circles. Developers employ it to test their applications on different devices without actually having to access them on other devices.

Unfortunately, this means that UA spoofing is a relatively easy undertaking, especially with the right developer tools. Even fraudsters with limited resources can use this technique to commit mobile ad fraud.

What’s more alarming is that this exact method can be utilized to get around a large variety of online security protocols. This means that the use of device spoofing can be used to conduct a variety of fraudulent activities including, but not limited to:

  • Advertising click fraud
  • Malware injection
  • Spam attacks
  • Account hijack
  • Card fraud

Online advertisers are one of the biggest targets of device spoofing-led fraudulent activities.

How does device spoofing impact advertisers?

As mentioned earlier, committing ad fraud using device spoofing is relatively easy. There is device spoofing software available on the dark web. One can obtain such software for as little as $130. Combining the abilities of this software with a VPN network, fraudsters can easily commit thousands of dollars worth of fraud in a matter of a few hours.

This has made committing ad fraud so easy that many fraudsters use this method as simply a way to make some extra cash. However, this can mean a collective loss of billions of dollars in ad spending for advertisers.

Alarmingly, this loss isn’t the only negative impact that advertisers experience because of device spoofing and fraud.

Besides the obvious loss, device spoofing also messes with the data advertisers use to make campaign-related decisions.

For instance, running an app promotion campaign and seeing a lot of traffic from iPhones may motivate you to push a larger percentage of your budget on App Store advertising. However, if a certain percentage of this traffic is fake, then this decision will not deliver the results you may be anticipating. This, in turn, can lead to more wastage of ad budgets.

In other words, device spoofing results in the loss of advertising budgets and leads advertisers to misjudged conclusions that subsequently lead to bad decisions.

Why is it essential to take action against device spoofing?

Device spoofing, and ad fraud, in general, must be stopped to ensure advertisers continue to place their trust in digital advertising. This is necessary to ensure authentic publishers can thrive online. Online advertising presents a lucrative opportunity for advertisers of all sizes. It’s a technology that supports small and local businesses and enables large businesses to expand quickly. It levels the playing field and enables small advertisers to compete with the giants of their industry.

If ad fraud isn’t controlled in time and advertisers lose their trust in online advertising, the future of digital advertising will indeed be bleak.

Device spoofing is a useful technique that is being misused to conduct fraud. Since it is relatively easy, it presents a lucrative opportunity for those with questionable ethics and a will to make quick money.

We’ve already discussed how device spoofing results in a dual loss for advertisers. However, another party this practice hurts is authentic publishers. Because some publishers with malicious intent, it becomes difficult for advertisers to trust any publisher or advertising network.

Practices like device spoofing pose a big threat to the overall reputation of the digital advertising industry.

How to protect your app from device spoofing?

Putting a stop to device spoofing is necessary for advertisers. Unfortunately, there aren’t many manual ways to track instances of device spoofing and avoid fraud.

Advertisers will need to depend on an ad fraud detection. Using such a tool to track and block ad fraud isn’t just more convenient. It ensures that your ads and your app are completely off-limits for fraudulent traffic. For you, this means better use of your ad budget and access to more accurate analytics data that will further help you maximize your profits with advertising.

mFilterIt’s ad traffic validation solution provides full-funnel protection across apps and the web. The technology is capable of detecting anomalies based on behavioral and heuristic aspects to enable advertisers to get transparency of invalid traffic.

Get in touch with our experts today and protect your app from invalid traffic!


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