On the frontline in Battle against Mobile App Fraud

Innovation in technology is going through a major transformative phase. Along with amazing developments some shortcomings to technology are also surfacing. Today, across all factions of the mobile industry, fraud is presenting unprecedented problems. With the rise of app-install products offered by leading advertising platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and Snapchat, smartphones today are a much more appealing target for potential fraud than ever before. Mobile app fraud is relatively a new topic and a matter of huge concern for app developers and publishers. Mobile app fraud basically refers to illicit activity to rob app publishers or consumers by impersonating real activity on iOS, Windows and Android devices.

Mobile app fraud refers to Illegal versions of authentic mobile apps that rob the publisher of imminent revenue

The mobile app economy is still in its infancy. Everyone involved is trying his level best to make some profit and get his share. But fraudulent people try to find different ways to cheat the system and earn money through deceitful means. In-app fraud has been an issue of great concern since the app business started to lift-off. Most professionals agree that the occurrence of fraud is rising at a faster pace in mobile space. It is obvious that the more money brands spend on app marketing, the more tempting the industry is to cyber criminals.

In 2012, Trademob published a study claiming that 40% of all mobile app clicks are either fraud or misfortunes. Since then, the fraud has extended to the performance-based ads, with cost-per-install or cost-per-action payment structure. Whereas, a recent report of BI Intelligence also revealed that mobile app marketers are expected to have lost over $100 million in 2016 due to app install and engagement fraud. Furthermore, the report specifies that additional $250 million will be lost without being certified as fraud, compelling the total impending revenue loss to $350 million.

To avoid fraud it is recommended to work only with reliable and tested sources

In this regard companies have implemented server-side receipt validation and item award system. With this system, when a client or customer passes the receipt to the server, the server authenticates the receipt and then grants the purchased item to the user’s account on the server. Yet this system does not work for most of the apps that do not have their user data kept and managed by a server.

Some examples of iOS and Android mobile app fraud include illegal versions of authentic mobile apps that rob the publisher of imminent revenue and may also steal the identities of users. Malicious apps in the App Store or Google Play look genuine but actually takeover devices for the purpose of delivering lots of hidden ad views. Illegal ad clicks and views for ad campaigns made to drive installs and re-engagements. When originators or networks are paying publishers on a Cost per Click (CPC) basis, such mobile app click fraud actions take revenue from ad budgets. Falsified app e-commerce IAP acquisitions mimic the signals of a transferal of funds when none has really occurred. The impostor gets fast income but the app publisher gets nothing. Unwarranted credit is also taken, where the permission-based install of one app is naively combined with the installation of another app that the user did not want. Through device impersonation signals are sent that seem to be from real devices but are actually bogus. Mobile app developers have to face many problems. The businesses of app developers get hurt when their game or app gets hacked by hackers. After hacking the games the actual developer doesn’t get the revenue.

Developers can combat fraud by using an app tracker service. Various open-source tracker Software Development Kits (SDK) run a more complex code in the app, which makes it harder to fake an install and requires a fraudster to simulate the whole app rather than manipulate HTTP API. To avoid fraud it is recommended to work only with reliable and tested sources.

Users give permission to fraudulent apps to access their information without realizing what they have done

Advanced app analytics also enable developers and publishers to evaluate the effectiveness of ad sources. Clients and users should look for references and suggestions when buying apps or advertising. This will to some extent make it difficult for impostors to hoax the system.

Though there is no fool proof way to prevent against in-app fraud on certified apps, but precautions can be taken to reduce the ratio. Usually users give permission to fraudulent apps to access their information without realizing what they have done. So it is quite important for users to become aware of the suspicious traits. By increasing awareness users will be able to identify fraud and less likely become a victim.

Other than educating users about mobile app fraud, operators and app developers should guarantee that they have responsive fraud management system

Other than educating users about mobile app fraud, operators and app developers should guarantee that they have vigorous and responsive fraud management system. Security systems can offer fraud management teams with threat intelligence in real-time, enabling them to identify and block fraudulent IPs, user agents and device IDs and prevent fraud before it happens. But having a security system only is not enough, fraud and security teams will have to work flawlessly with one another to alleviate fraud risk.

Associating security information with a fraud management system that depend on vigorous statistical irregularity detection and machine learning can increase the capability to identify odd trends and arrangements that can be linked to fraud on specific apps installed by groups of users in the Communications Service Provider (CSP) networks

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