How Ad Fraud Schemes Drain Users’ Batteries And Data In Android Apps?

27 Mar 2019 Wednesday
How Ad Fraud Schemes Drain Users’ Batteries And Data In Android Apps?
Ağahan  Çelik
Ağahan Çelik Editor

More than $20 billion stolen from the advertising industry this year

Apparently, some ads displayed in applications of your Android smartphone might be the cause of an over consume of your battery and mobile data. If an application is consuming more data or battery than usual, it might be infected by fraud ads. According to fraud detection firm Protected Media, hidden behind the legitimate banners there are data-hungry video ads run by ad fraudsters. The problem is that it is impossible for users to see these videos, and consequently it created confusion and critiques towards the owners of the apps.

This ad fraud may drain your data and battery

Protected Media together with reports and interviews conducted by BuzzFeed News, traced Aniview, an Israeli company with offices in New York to be involved with this fraud scheme. The company that runs a video ad technology platform however denies any involvement and hold malicious third parties responsible: “BuzzFeed brought to our attention that there is an abuse activity, as an immediate action, we stopped this activity and started and continue an internal incident review,” said Aniview CEO Alon Carmel.

This scheme however is only one of the many ways in which ad fraudsters earn money at the expenses of the global digital advertising industry. Here’s how the scheme works. The owner of an app sells a banner ad, which appears in the app and is visible to his users. Then, hidden from view behind that banner, fraudsters conceal auto-playing video ads that no human being actually sees, but which register as having been served and viewed. In this scenario, the app’s owner gets paid for the small banner ad in his app that users see, but the fraudsters earn many times that amount by stuffing far more lucrative video ads behind the banner. Ultimately, the biggest harm of this fraud is borne by the advertising companies who paid to have their product publicized but instead no potential costumer can see.

“Fraudsters are purchasing cheap in-app display inventory and are filling it with multiple video players behind innocuous fake branded display ads,” said Asaf Greiner, the CEO of Protected Media. This fraud, known as in-banner video ads, is complicated to eradicate because almost every actor in the supply chain (except for the brands hidden behind the banner) make a profit. Even if the apps are not involved in the ad fraud, platforms such as ad networks and other intermediaries earn a share of the money spent on invalid ads. As a consequence, there is disincentive to stop fraud from taking place. “It’s an unfair kind of situation because anybody who behaves well and doesn’t allow this on their platform is being left out of the profit,” Greiner said, adding that “there’s very little penalty and there’s a lot to gain — the numbers are just enormous.”

Android applications are not new to this kind of scandals; over the past few months Android users saw antivirus that were actually scams, beauty apps that were stealing pictures and other kind of malware found on Google Play. Maybe it’s time to be more cautious.

As the advertisement sector and some companies are choosing more ruthless policies to collect money from users, what will be the future of the digital advertisement ? Are companies going to keep on benefiting on users or some kind of restrictions will be applied to overcome this problem ? Don't forget to share you thoughts !