What is ad fraud?

This page is a basic overview of ad fraud

Ronald Ng avatar
Written by Ronald Ng
Updated over a week ago

Ad fraud is a scam that involves creating fake ad impressions, clicks, and conversions to waste advertising spending.

↓Hardware used for ad fraud

By 2025, the annual cost to advertisers is predicted to reach 50 billion dollars (6.4 trillion yen).

Ad fraud is also fairly simple to conduct, and the potential rewards are high, so this has become a major source of income for criminal groups.

↓Major sources of revenue for criminal groups (Click the image for more details)

Ad fraud often uses malicious bots. These are programmed to conduct particular tasks, either on mobile devices or on servers in data centers.

↓Bots running various tasks (Click the image to see the video)

What is the goal of ad fraud?

Advertisers want to pay for media that delivers positive results. With ad fraud, bad actors aim to profit by operating fraudulent media.

Ad fraud techniques

Technique #1: Click farms

Click farms create large quantities of impressions, clicks, installs, or conversions to inflate the perceived success of ads. Click farm operators set up many devices and use manual labor or bots.

It is possible to detect this activity by analyzing data such as the timing, IP address, operating system, and device info.

↓Example of a click farm for microblogging services in China

Technique #2: Click flooding

Click flooding uses normal users' devices to send fake signals to advertising analytics tools to steal advertising spending.

The key feature of click flooding is that it creates what appears to be organic traffic from normal devices, increasing metrics such as return on advertising spend, lifetime value, and response rate.

Although this appears to be effective media spending, this does not benefit the advertiser.

Click flooding can also be detected by analyzing factors such as timing.

Technique #3: SDK spoofing

With software development kit (SDK) spoofing, bad actors usually mimic the signals that mobile devices send to analytics tools, such as those for clicks, installs, and other events. After analyzing these signals, they copy or forge them to create fake results.

SDK spoofing is notable because it can even fake events such as payments and member registration.

It is possible to analyze these various events to detect fraud.

The ad fraud described here can happen with all kinds of digital advertising. To optimize your ad spending, it's important to have a set of effective measures to deal with ad fraud.

Spider AF is a specialized tool for fighting ad fraud. To learn more about Spider AF, please contact us by chat!

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