Ad fraud, the lurking shadow of cyber fraud

Mobile and digital media channels are the present and future of the advertising industry. In Asia-Pacific , an estimated 58% of advertising budgets are allocated to digital media, with 20% of this going to mobile in-app on average.

Meanwhile, just 41% of budgets are allocated to traditional media such as desktop advertising. This transition of advertising budgets from traditional to new media is a clear indication of the booming mobile advertising industry.

However, the mobile advertising industry is far from being alone in its industry’s growth trajectory.

Similar to how cybercriminals are capitalising on the boom in technology adoption around the world, reaping the rewards of the mobile advertising spends are fraudsters who have found creative ways to grab a piece of this lucrative pie.

Fraud goes ‘hi-tech’

As mobile advertisers are injecting more money into their marketing campaigns, marketing budgets have also become more vulnerable to these fraudulent activities. In 2021, the global industry fraud exposure is estimated to be US$2.1 billion.

With more advertisers going mobile, advertising frauds have also advanced in many forms, and continue to evolve. Ranging from click injection, click flooding, device farms, and bots, fraudsters are constantly leveraging new technologies to target various areas that generate more revenue per fraudulent action.

Fraud is typically attracted to where money is available. Strategies have shifted from traditionally high-focus verticals such as finance to emerging domains such as F&B as well as shopping, especially as the pandemic spurred more in-app purchases for food deliveries and online retail.

With the multi-pronged approach fraudsters have adopted, mobile advertisers should take this as a sign to arm themselves with fraud protection solutions to stay ahead of every threat and keep marketing budgets safe.

Technology, the double-edged sword

It is critical for advertisers to understand how mobile ad fraud functions in order to build up defences. Advertising fraud is most active throughout the lifecycle of a standard app attribution, during which fraudsters attempt to identify and exploit loopholes, failures, and other opportunities.

However, like other crimes, mobile ad fraud also has its clues and indicators to help identify fraud activities and flush out its operators. Today’s attribution providers are tapping on existing data collected to analyse and identify anomalies in user behaviour, device sensors, and more. These analyses can help paint a picture of what legitimate activity patterns look like and, in turn, highlight abnormal behaviour.

As data analysis plays a big part in identification, reliance on a larger database makes fraud identification efforts more accurate. They make identifying more fraudulent patterns faster and more efficient.

Pay for real customers, not bots

The threat of fraud has kept many apps from trying new, potentially high-performing, channels. Mobile ad fraud has been the primary culprit for the billions of dollars wasted in marketing budgets worldwide. 

Advanced fraud attacks today demand innovative protection. This also requires the support from mobile measurement partners (MMPs) who are able to employ technologies to sieve out fraudulent activities. 

Technologies such as simultaneously analysing hundreds of mobile sensors to determine authentic customers is one of many technologies currently used by MMPs. This enables advertisers to accurately distinguish between humans and machines, and keep their ad budget focused on real conversations.

With in-app and cost per action (CPA) being an attractive target for those looking to commit fraudulent attacks, advanced fraud protection is also necessary for advertisers to dive deeper into fraud data to eliminate sophisticated threats. 

The long-drawn battle against ad fraud 

Advertisers’ decision-making processes, budget allocations, and audience targeting plans have been hindered with prevalent mobile ad fraud.

The first step to creating a winning-strategy is to understand the enemy – fraudsters. Advertisers must be ready for any form of attacks and will be able to do so by understanding how malicious activities take place. 

Fraudsters are more sophisticated and forward-thinking than we imagine, and MMPs stand together with mobile advertisers.

Mobile ad fraud is an existing and ever-growing industry issue that has cost advertisers billions of dollars annually. With fraudsters’ inventive and creative approach, their methods have been able bypass industry regulations and anti-fraud defence mechanisms.

After all, fraud is a business.

Just like most, fraudsters are return-on-investment driven and follow the money wherever it may be – wherever the opportunity is, fraud will be there. Consequently, advanced mobile ad fraud solutions are a necessity in today’s ecosystem. Gone are the days where such solutions were just “good to have”.

A solid and secure infrastructure, combined with an adaptive solution for the identification and blocking of existing and new fraud methods, are required for any online marketing initiative at any scale.