AppsFlyer: App Install Fraud is on the Rise

SVP of Strategy & Business Development, Paul Longhenry, shares his perspective on AppsFlyer’s Q1 2018 report, fraud prevention, and the measures Tapjoy is taking to safeguard our own platform from fraud.

If you think app install fraud is something you no longer have to worry about, mobile measurement firm AppsFlyer wants you to think again. AppsFlyer’s Q1 “State of Mobile App Install Fraud” report claims that fraud is, in fact, on the rise, as app marketers were exposed to 30% more fraud in Q1 2018 than the quarterly average of 2017. The report is intended to draw much needed attention to the issue while offering publishers pragmatic advice. It includes preventative tips for organizations of all sizes, while rightfully warning publishers that if they’re not already doing something to prevent fraud from penetrating their app marketing campaigns, now’s the time to start.

The report shines a light on fraud’s cyclical nature. “Fraud protection used to be as simple as blocking of basic IP address spoofing. This has since evolved into ever-more sophisticated detection capabilities associated with bot farms and click injection,” said Paul Longhenry, SVP of Strategy and Business Development at Tapjoy.

As companies like AppsFlyer develop new technologies to help identify and crack down on known angles of attack, bad actors are finding new vulnerabilities to exploit. Perhaps most troubling is how quickly these tactics can change. From January to February of 2018, bots and botnets went from constituting only 10% to 30% of all install fraud, quickly replacing device farms as the number-one tactic employed by fraudsters. And it’s not just the biggest players being targeted. Out of a study sample of six thousand apps and ten billion installs, AppsFlyer found that at least one in ten installs were fraudulent for nearly a quarter of all apps.

AppsFlyer also found that app categories have a large part to play in determining where fraudsters hit hardest. Mobile commerce, gaming, and finance all attracted some of the highest levels of fraud, almost certainly due to their consistently high CPIs. With post-install order values averaging in the hundreds of dollars, ecommerce and finance app publishers are paying some of the highest install costs in the industry, resulting in higher margins for fraudsters. The gaming category was a close second due to the sheer volume of installs trafficked rather than especially high CPIs. Economies of scale make large targets like mobile gaming a more reliable source of ill-gotten install revenue.

Bucking conventional wisdom, AppsFlyer’s study found that overall fraud rates to be higher on Android than iOS, however, more iOS devices have drawn a larger volume of “click flooding.”

Their study found that the Android OS is more vulnerable to attacks than the more locked down iOS platform, which is due to their sheer scale. The overall amount of fraud perpetrated on Android is over three times that of iOS, however, when it comes to a fraud rate comparison, the difference between the platforms is only 33%.

It’s a troubling growth rate that should have all mobile publishers and app marketers investing time and energy into preventative measures. Paul Longhenry offered, “Unfortunately, fraud prevention is a project that never truly reaches completion. It is imperative that advertisers and publishers alike maintain dedicated resources to ensure both standards & technology, as well as to maintain brand safety and transparency. It’s also critical that advertisers work closely with partners like AppsFlyer, as their much broader view of the market enables them to detect and address new fraud variants more quickly than any one advertising or app publishing platform can do on their own. In my personal experience, I attribute much of Tapjoy’s growth and success to our continuing investment in identifying and routing-out new fraud schemes as they emerge.”

In addition to practicing tried-and-true fraud prevention methods like keeping SDKs up to date and taking an active role in fraud detection with ad networks, AppsFlyer recommends implementing comprehensive technical solutions that address all known fraud tactics currently in play. Head over to AppsFlyer to download the full report and learn more about how you can protect your mobile app portfolio.

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