app install fraud

Fraudulent practises regarding app installs have been on the rise for some time now. As reported by e-marketer, the amount of mobile app install fraud has nearly tripled in the past 12 months. Let’s have a look at this major problem of the app industry in detail.

What is App Install Fraud?

App install fraud refers to generating fake installs for a particular app and then taking the credit for it. Some of the companies even try taking the credit for an organic install. By that, I mean the people who downloaded the app because they themselves wanted to, not because they saw an ad for it.

App Install Fraud On the Rise

The app industry is a pretty big industry. But along with that, one of the bigger subsidiary industries is that of mobile app install ads. In 2018, about $7.1 billion estimated to spend on mobile app install ads. This represents a significant 9.2% increase from the $6.5 billion spent on the same, last year.

These fraudulent practices have been on the rise during this year. Between July and September 2018, Mobile marketing analytics firm Adjust reported that almost 13.7% of all app installs were discarded as they were fraudulent. There are ad agencies whose fake app install rates go up as high as 50%. According to another mobile attribution firm AppsFlyer, in the last 12 months, the amount of app install fraud has nearly tripled. Surprisingly, more than one-quarter of the total 17 billion app installs that AppsFlyer analysed in that timeframe were fraudulent.

Even Google is now recognising this threat. In 2017, Google removed 70,000 apps from its Play Store which it deemed were ‘malicious’. Surprisingly, that was the first time in the history of Google Play when so many numbers of apps are pulled down by Google in just one year.

The Factors Surrounding the Rise

The digital advertising industry is quite a big one in itself. On top of that, the share of mobile in it all has been on the rise. In 2018, it is expected that mobile will account for almost 70% of all digital advertising. On top of that, mobile will alone account for almost 34% of the total US Ad spending. Hence, it is definitely a big industry in itself.

Why are we discussing it? This is because the fraudulent ad agencies are taking advantage of this growing industry. As pointed out by Shachar Guz, product manager at AppsFlyer, “Fraudsters have become so sophisticated that they can essentially generate as much fraud as they want by faking installs. They have learned how to hack exposed software development kits [SDKs] and manipulate the system by mimicking real user behaviour.”

This ends up costing the companies a lot of money. And on top of that, with as much of ad fraud happening as it is, genuine ad agencies must be hard to come by.

Steps to Ensure Protection

However, one of the major advantages of a popular problem is that there will always be people trying to find a solution for it. In this case, those people have formed a coalition against Ad fraud in general. The coalition is being led by Andreas Naumann, head of fraud at a mobile technology firm called Adjust in Berlin. The Coalition has indeed started taking steps to ensure protection. The first of them was to create a “standardization document.” After that, opening CAAF to advertisers and third parties.

Is It Enough?

The battlefield of Ad fraud is constantly changing. If people get to the fraudsters in one field, they just vanish and try another newer field. The greater the newness of a field, the easier it is for the fraudsters to exploit it. Hence, it is not going to be easy to stop them in a short period of time. It is going to depend on who wises up to the other quicker. Hence, let’s just hope that the winner is on our side.

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