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A fraud analytics case study conducted by White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers revealed that an estimated $6.3B will be lost to fraud in digital advertising in 2015. One of the common (and most annoying) ways this happens is through auto-redirects to the App Store and Google Play. These auto-redirects are often the result of a Javascript snippet, employed by ad networks directly or by their supportive supply publishers.

The first question consumers have is: “How could any self-respecting vendor allow an ad to exist where it can take over my browser and automatically attempt to move me to the app store!” This is usually augmented with many expletives of frustration. What is really being asked is: “How could there be no control over end-user experience?”

Respectable sites are falling victim to publishing these nefarious advertisements. It makes the advertiser look bad—and the publishing website look bad.

Here’s how it works
Ad Networks exist to aggregate inventory of ads across various properties (apps, websites, etc) so that advertisers can buy at scale. Buying at scale is important because it can be time-consuming and tedious to set up ads and run them only to find out that you could only reach a handful of audiences. When you’re an advertiser that really wants to promote your app—and you have the money to promote your app at scale—you want partners that can really scale with you.

The trouble is, sometimes the supporting publishers (web sites) use technologies that allow them to shop for the best offer from various ad networks. This is called advertisement mediation technology. Mediation technology is great because it provides a competitive way for publishers to earn the most money for their inventory of ads and their audiences and it enables those publishers to ‘shop for the best offer’. There are, however, some drawbacks.

One drawbacks is that sometime shady ‘buyers’ of ads are really just re-brokering the inventory of a publisher and selling it to reputable ad networks. These middle-men do bad things, like place auto redirect urls into advertisements.

Kochava measures—we don’t serve or buy ads
At Kochava, our job is to be the measurement system for all of the ads being delivered so that an advertiser can trust the numbers of ad networks. As a result, it’s a Kochava tracking url that is used when these bad advertisements are published and direct users without their consent.

In response to what we’ve seen in the market, Kochava has developed a set of fraud monitoring tools. This helps the advertiser and the ad network by pointing out the bad behavior of some of the ‘sub publishers’. At times, the ad networks themselves don’t even know that it’s happening.

The most nefarious of these auto-redirects are self-perpetuating. As soon as you switch to the browser on your mobile device, you’re redirected, making it impossible to access the content you’re trying to find. The immediate solution is to restart your browser and notify the website on which this occurred. PLEASE NOTE: this is NOT caused by the website you’re viewing or the tracking service (Kochava or others), but the ad network serving the ad. The ad network itself is often also a victim of fraudsters within their network and they are just as anxious to stop it.

Whack-a-mole problem
Due to the opacity that often exists in the way ads are served, blacklisting fraudulent Site IDs is a recurring problem. As the industry matures and fraud detection becomes more commonplace, stopping fraudsters will become a more fluid process, However, stopping them from setting up new Site IDs under new identities is another issue. It’s a lot like the old Whack-a Mole game—no matter how many times you bop a mole it pops back up somewhere else with a smile on its face.

It takes a village
In addition to the fraud detection processes in place, vigilant consumers can be helpful in the fight against fraud. Because tracking URLs are used in such a high percentage of mobile traffic, blaming the tracking URL would be akin to blaming your speedometer for a speeding ticket. But to more casual consumers, the name in the URL is often mistaken for the offender and becomes the target of frustration.

Kochava has been instrumental in identifying and helping to pinpoint many nefarious Site IDs through our own Fraud Detection product as well as through consumer notification. When consumers are willing to act, fraudsters can be stopped quickly.

For more information on the nature of mobile fraud, request a demo of Kochava Fraud Detection to find out how it happens and what we’re doing to identify and curtail this behavior.

Combating Fraud Through Enhanced Transparency
The following is excerpted from a case study with KIXEYE, a leading publisher of mobile games.

“The detailed information made available through the Kochava platform has also given KIXEYE more transparency with their ad network and media partners.”

“The ability to have data down to the timestamp and source of each user helps us to identify potential data discrepancies which, over the course of a campaign, can really add up. For example, if we are buying ads across a large ad inventory and we find in the data that we are receiving ad installs from a geography that we do not serve or did not specify, we can go back to our ad network and have them issue a credit or make good and then blacklist those outlets to avoid them in the future,” says Braatz. “With a neutral attribution partner like Kochava, it is easy to verify install claims made by ad networks to ensure that we are only paying for verified users.”

To further combat fraud, when delving into the data and analyzing at the seller ID level, the KIXEYE user acquisition team can see if the installs they are receiving are legitimate or if they are incentivized or fraudulent.