The inability of the fintech/mobile banking industry and eWallet providers to efficiently track the mobile money ecosystem has skyrocketed the possibilities of mobile fraud. The significant increase in mobile app users over the past two years has been met with an immense increase in mobile fraud since hackers rush to capitalize on money flowing via mobile apps (by way of mobile advertising, mobile gaming, eCommerce purchases, money transfer apps, mobile banking, etc.) Fraudsters are now targeting mobile apps to divert vast amounts of money into their pockets, and their favorite way to do this is committing mobile click fraud. In fact, click fraud has been said to cost advertisers $7.2 billion a year, and the problem is only getting worse. As these figures suggest, mobile click fraud isn’t just a bug — it’s a major problem that needs to be addressed.
Click-fraud is most popular among digital marketers and PPC (pay-per-click) specialists. If you’re running a marketing campaign for your online business, including Facebook Ads and Google Adwords — then you must’ve experienced multiple invalid clicks that eat away your spending budget. The most common click-fraud occurs from users and bots that click the ads to earn revenue for their website or consuming budgets to stop a competitor from targeting actual customers. Click-fraud costs digital marketers billions per year due to automated scripts, bots, and malware generating fraudulent clicks.
Click bots are automated scripts or software programs specifically designed to generate significant quantities of invalid clicks. They are also designed to take actions such as mouse movements, mixing the timing between clicks, random pauses before any action, and so on. Since hundreds of clicks from one device would immediately seem suspicious, a click-fraud campaign uses bots installed on multiple devices. Each device has a different IP address, and it looks like the click comes from a unique user.
Click flooding or click spamming is the process of sending vast quantities of fraudulent clicks. The chance for misattribution is low, therefore, increasing the probability of potential payout. Click flooding captures organic traffic, markets it without its knowledge, and claims the credit in the end. This fraudulent technique occurs on a massive scale and presents a massive problem within the mobile industry.
Click injection is a refined form of click flooding. By publishing an application, which listens for “install broadcasts,” cybercriminals detect when other applications are downloaded and trigger clicks, and as a consequence, they receive credits. Without enough fraud prevention tools, attackers can use a junk application to hijack a mobile at the right time to create an “ad click” that appears legitimate.
In this type of click fraud, the fraudster pretends that they’re legitimate SDK inside the app or legitimate app publishers. Then they use multiple techniques to redirect all the traffic to the fake SDK or application and rack up fraudulent clicks, which they get paid for. Attackers achieve this using automated bots and malware embedded inside the app, which masquerade as authentic SDKs. The malware is often obfuscated, hidden, or dormant so that the mobile application passes Apple/Google’s security and app store checks. Once the illegitimate SDK is integrated into the app, the malware starts performing its intended functions. The attribution revenue is diverted away from legitimate publishers to the fraudsters due to this fraudulent activity.
Accessibility services are created to help people with disabilities. They receive callbacks from the system while running in the background when accessibility events are released, making them respond to a state transition. For example, the active window’s content was queried, a button was clicked, or the focus has changed. These services run with greater administrative privileges. This is the reason why accessibility services are the prime target of fraudsters.
Auto-Macros are tools that automate multiple actions in a single mouse click. They are frequently used to imitate human behavior or realistically cheat in mobile games.
These clickers automate repetitive and high-volume click actions specifically for cheating in mobile games in which immediate actions earn game points. These automated programs are often used in mobile ad fraud throughout click injection attacks or to generate high volumes of fake clicks on an advertisement in a short period.
There are numerous reasons why app security testing is crucial. A few of them include preventing click fraud attacks, virus or malware infection, preventing security breaches, etc.; if you have a business app, click fraud can cause significant anomalies that distort data collection, waste bandwidth, steal content and degrade valuable server resources. Utilizing Mobile App Security Testing is an effective method to detect and protect mobile devices against click fraud. It’s a pre-production check to ensure all security controls within the app work as expected while defending against implementation errors. It can detect edge cases that can turn into potential vulnerabilities that the development team might haven’t anticipated.
Furthermore, the real-time threat monitoring system can help prevent click fraud on mobile apps. A real-time threat monitoring system will not only monitor and safeguard the apps by detecting incoming, outright hidden, and hard-to-find fraudulent activities but also prevent bots from stealing or scrapping content for future exploitable vulnerabilities.
It’s no wonder that widespread practices, policies, or techniques can be harmful to the specific industry despite being used in multiple circles. Click-fraud is one such example, which is wreaking chaos and havoc in the mobile banking and advertising world. The most effective defense against mobile click-fraud is to prevent it from occurring.
If you own a business, whether it’s small or large-sized, and have a business app, it’s essential to scan clicks/installs in real-time to determine if any malicious techniques or tools are being used. If not for the protection of advertising budgets or revenue streams, you must be concerned about how click-fraud can corrupt your personal and customer’s valuable data. Moreover, a swarm of aggressive click-bots can destroy useful metrics and customer data entirely in one fell swoop. Choosing the right click-fraud detection service providers is crucial to your business’s success in the long run!
This article was first published on MEDIUM on 23 November 2021.