A new report has uncovered a massive advertising fraud scheme that made scammers serious cash, fooled marketing companies and killed users' smartphone batteries. The scheme operated via fake banner advertisements that were secretly hidden behind legitimate banner ads in Android apps, according to BuzzFeed News. This scam was previously spotted by at least two ad fraud detection firms, Protected Media and online media verification firm DoubleVerify's ad fraud lab. A new report has uncovered a massive advertising fraud scheme that let made scammers serious cash, fooled marketing companies and killed users' smartphone batteries Fraudsters were able to hijack in-app ads in apps using Twitter's MoPub ad platform. App developers say they've received complaints of their apps draining consumers' phone batteries, BuzzFeed said, but they often can't explain the source of the battery drain.
When is a banner ad not a banner ad? When it's a hidden video ad generating fraudulent advertising revenue while draining your phone battery and using your valuable data allowance. As BuzzFeed reports, it's been discovered that in-app banner ads have been hijacked on a massive scale to generate revenue for fraudsters working within the digital advertising industry. The people who suffer are consumers and their devices, but also the app developers who receive complaints regarding how quickly their apps are draining phone and tablet batteries. The fraud was discovered by two ad fraud labs, Protected Media and DoubleVerify.
Late last year, DoubleVerify Inc., a company that offers software for advertisers and ad vendors to authenticate ad inventory, identified a scheme it says was designed to take advantage of the growing adoption of Ads.txt. DoubleVerify estimated the scam could have taken between $70 million and $80 million of advertisers' spending a year had it gone unchecked. First, the fraudsters scraped content from legitimate sites to create copies. Then they deployed "botnets" of consumer devices infected with malware to generate fake page views on the mock sites. Usually, this is where Ads.txt could go some way to preventing fraud: Buyers offered the resulting ad impressions could check the legitimate sites' Ads.txt files to see whether the impressions come from authorized vendors.
Google pulled a number of popular Android apps from the Play Store after BuzzFeed News has discovered a large-scale ad fraud scheme their developers were pulling off. Six of those apps were by DU Group, a developer that spun off from Chinese tech giant Baidu a year ago. DU's properties include the immensely popular Selfie Camera app that's been downloaded over 50 million times from the Play Store. Ad fraud researcher Check Point found that it contains code that causes the app to automatically click on advertisements without the user's knowledge. Users don't even need to fire up the app: the clicks happen even if the application isn't running, which means it can drain battery and consume data.
With several companies having helped popularize the format, it is testament to the growing position of so-called "out-stream" video ads that there is now a supply-side ad platform (SSP) dedicated to them. Company chief revenue officer and president Chris Scott, the former Admeld, Criteo and Yieldo exec who joined in February, tells Beet.TV that ConvertMedia is gaining more partnerships with demand-side partners, too. "TubeMogul, Videology, and Index are integrating with us," he says. "We see that as a powerful testament to what we're doing. A lot of agencies will now be able to buy through those partners."