Industry News

BuzzFeed: These Hugely Popular Android Apps Have Been Committing Ad Fraud Behind Users’ Backs

BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman authored a report on a series of mobile apps that are used to enable ad fraud.

Eight apps with a total of more than 2 billion downloads in the Google Play store have been exploiting user permissions as part of an ad fraud scheme that could have stolen millions of dollars, according to research from Kochava, an app analytics and attribution company that detected the scheme and shared its findings with BuzzFeed News.

Seven of the apps Kochava found were engaging in this behavior are owned by Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese company listed on the New York Stock Exchange that last year was accused of fraudulent business practices by a short-seller investment firm — a charge Cheetah vigorously denied. The other app is owned by Kika Tech, a Chinese company now headquartered in Silicon Valley that received a significant investment from Cheetah in 2016. The companies claim more than 700 million active users per month for their mobile apps.

Kochava and Method’s Praneet Sharma analyzed the apps and found that the Kika Keyboard app executed click flooding and injection using the company’s own proprietary software and with functions built directly into the app itself.

eMarketer: Is App-Install Fraud on the Rise?

The topic of this article from eMarketer’s Ross Benes is mobile attribution (app-install) fraud.

eMarketer estimates that $7.1 billion will be spent on mobile app install ads in 2018, up from $6.5 billion last year. App-install fraud refers to the practice where a company falsely gets credit for getting a user to download an app.

Fraudsters are trying to make a buck off the ad dollars that flow to mobile. Over the past 12 months, mobile attribution firm AppsFlyer analyzed 17 billion app installs across 7,000 apps worldwide. It found that the amount of install fraud roughly tripled. More than one-quarter of the installs that AppsFlyer analyzed in that timeframe were fraudulent.

Method Media Intelligence’s Praneet Sharma commented, stating that "there are two reasons that persistent install fraud is on the rise: utilization of low-fidelity identifiers and spoofing of attribution tracking."

Adtech Won’t Fix Ad Fraud Because It Is Too Lucrative

Every hour of every day a million little crimes are committed online. And every time it happens, hundreds of legitimate businesses all over the world, with boards and shareholders and mission statements — some of them publicly listed — put the proceeds of those crimes in their own pockets. They do so knowingly. 

Some people might consider it extraordinary that technology businesses — businesses that claim they can discern the intent of one buyer from a billion in milliseconds — somehow can’t recognize when millions of ads a month are served to a single unique user ID in, for instance, Belarus.

Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar states that "when you study actual bot traffic in isolation as well as in live ad exchanges, you realize quickly that the truth can be described best as ‘take the industry estimates of the financial impact of fraud and multiply by ten.’”

Method Media Intelligence to Present at 6th Prague Marketing Festival in March 2019

The 6th Prague Marketing Festival will be from March 20th to 22nd, 2019. Ticket sales began on June 5th, 2018. Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma will be presenting, following up on their seminar on ad fraud from earlier this year.

Pixalate Says it Uncovered ‘Sophisticated’ Android Ad Fraud Potentially Worth $75 Million Annually

Ad safety company Pixalate has uncovered what it says is a ‘sophisticated’ mobile app fraud potentially costing advertisers up to $75 million a year if allowed to run unchecked.

The company says it discovered that Android app, MegaCast which allows users to broadcast content to Google’s Chromecast, was using ‘mobile app laundering’ to generate fraudulent ad impressions.

Kerrisdale Capital Hit On QuinStreet A Harbinger For Ad Arbitragers In An Age Of Growing Transparency - Which50

Read commentary from Which 50's Andrew Birmingham about the Kerrisdale Capital report on QuinStreet. Kerrisdale Capital is a New York based hedge fund which focuses on short activism. 

Andrew Birmingham interviewed Shailin Dhar of Method Media Intelligence for his view on QuinStreet. “Re-brokering and arbitrage are the main pillars of affiliate and performance marketing. The main reasons are that if you can create an image palatable enough for actual advertisers, you can go out and find 100 individual parties that will provide small amounts of traffic that can be aggregated to look like an attractive level to advertisers.", Shailin said. 

In addition, he said, “advertisers will slowly but surely get wind of the fact that the party they purchase leads from usually has zero idea how they were generated. Lead scrubbing is essential; it was my first encounter with ad fraud in 2011.”

Fake McDonald’s Video Campaign Reveals How Widely The “Benefits” Of Ad Fraud Are Distributed

This article from Andrew Birmingham of Which 50 discusses the results of a fake McDonald's video ad campaign. Shailin Dhar of Method Media Intelligence explains how fraud originates and argues that ad tech vendors need to adjust their detection methods by exonerating human users.

How to Tell When Someone Is Talking BS About Blockchain - The Drum

Blockchain has become one of the most overused buzzwords in many industries. In this article from Rebecca Stewart of The Drum, the claims and solutions related to the applications of blockchain technology are examined.

Method Media Intelligence's Shailin Dhar believes that "a lack of clarity and misinformation in the marketplace are the two biggest challenges holding blockchain back", and "everyone would benefit from creating education cycles in their organizations to make sure their teams have a sufficient understanding of what the word blockchain means to them and the environment they operate in".

Method Media Intelligence to Present at Programmatic Punch on March 28th in New York City

Shailin Dhar of Method Media Intelligence will be presenting at Programmatic Punch on March 28th in New York City. Programmatic Punch is a one-day event by The Drum focused on changes in the digital advertising industry. 

Shailin Dhar and Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG, will be the ad fraud panel members. Specifically, the speakers will discuss how ad fraud effects every aspect of marketing and the damage that is done to brands when they appear against inappropriate content. 

Lessons on Preventing Ad Fraud and How to Seal the Cracks - The Drum

Read an interview between Shailin Dhar and Danielle Gibson of The Drum. In this interview, Shailin describes how current industry practices allow ad fraud to continue.

In addition, Shailin details MMI's "exoneration method", which starts with the assumption that traffic is invalid and seeks to validate, using a "guilty until proven innocent" approach to detection. In addition, MMI's traffic quality metrics are determined by measuring 100% of impression events as opposed to sampling only a fraction of a whole data set. 

For more, read the full interview.

Method Media Intelligence to Present at Blockchain Xplore on February 27th in New York City

Praneet Sharma and Shailin Dhar from Method Media Intelligence will be presenting at MetaX's Blockchain Xplore event at the Microsoft Technology Center in New York City on February 27th, 2018. 

Blockchain Xplore is a one-day, educational conference designed to drive a deeper understanding of the potentials of blockchain-based technology for the digital advertising industry.

The title of their talk is "The Bots Who Stole Christmas".

Google AdWords Allows Targeting Using Phone Numbers, Addresses - AdAge

Read this article from AdAge, which details how "Google has expanded the consumer-targeting capabilities of its AdWords platform to let marketers use phone numbers and mailing addresses to reach their right people."

According to Method Media Intelligence's Praneet Sharma, this is a standard capability in the advertising industry. 

Inside Adform’s ‘Hyphbot’ ad fraud takedown - TheDrum

Read this article from Ronan Shields of The Drum, in which the operation of "Hyphbot" is described. Hyphbot is the name of a botnet discovered by Adform, estimated to be generating revenues of $500,000/day. Adform's CRO, Jay Stevens, called Hyphbot a "call to arms" for the adtech industry.

Adform consulted MMI for peer review prior to the publication of their findings. 

MMI's Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma to Present at 5th Prague Marketing Festival on November 10th, 2017

Shailin Dhar and Praneet Sharma will be presenting at the 5th Prague Marketing Festival on Friday, November 10th, at 2:55 PM local time. The event brings together 1,700 marketers and 9 speakers from around the world to discuss current challenges in digital marketing. 

Shailin and Praneet will cover the basics of ad fraud: what it is, why it happens, how it is done, and what individuals can do to help stop it.

Gotham City Research Goes After Criteo Asking, “Is It Malware?” Promises New Disclosures

Read commentary from Which-50.com, a source for Australian digital marketing intelligence. In this report, Andrew Birmingham summarizes a report from Gotham City Research which questions the legitimacy of services provided by Criteo, a retargeting company.

The Gotham City Research report includes a document authored by Method Media Intelligence. The contents of this document were released without MMI's permission or knowledge, but MMI stands by the integrity of its own analysis.

MMI's Shailin Dhar Featured in LA AdTech Panel: Blockchain in AdTech

Shailin Dhar was featured in MetaX's LA AdTech Panel, hosted in Santa Monica, CA. The panel was composed of close to 100 people with backgrounds ranging from programmatic advertising to dApp development. 

Watch a recording of the event here.