$2.3bn (£1.9bn) of ad spend was exposed to app install fraud in the first half of 2019, according to the 2019 edition of AppsFlyer’s State of Mobile Fraud report. This is not a measure of the amount of ad fraud actually perpetrated, only of the amount of ad spend that had the potential to be subject to fraud. The report does not have a figure for the amount of ad fraud actually perpetrated.
In conjunction with the release of the report, which finds that a significant portion of fraud is not blocked as it occurs, AppsFlyer also announced the rollout of a new feature and protection layer called Post-Attribution. The company claims this is the first attribution solution to uncover fraud that wasn’t caught in real time, after app installs have been attributed, potentially saving brands millions of dollars per day.
According to the report, which analyzed 2.5bn non-organic app installs across 9,500 apps that saw at least 100 monthly installs driven by marketing activity per app, per country between January and June 2019, the nature of fraudsters’ attacks is rapidly evolving, and becoming increasingly sophisticated.
“We often refer to fraud as a game of cat and mouse, and after massive bot attacks in the summer of 2018, protection solutions found ways to counter the attacks,” said AppsFlyer co-founder and CTO, Reshef Mann. “But in April 2019, the wave surged again as app install fraud evolved from device farms with physical devices to device emulators and other sophisticated bots and schemes capable of unlimited scale. The speed at which fraudsters adapt is also accelerating, from one to two months in 2018 to as little as two to three days today.”
Some key stats from the report: 22.6 per cent of non-organic app installs globally are currently identified as fraudulent. 2.1 per cent of in-app purchase ‘events’ were fraudulent in Q2 2019, a 10x increase vs. Q1. Across platforms, more than one in four apps have a serious fraud problem, where the rate exceeds 20 per cent.
When comparing app install fraud by OS, Apple's iOS is far less vulnerable. Not only is fraud on Android more than six times higher, but its upward trend is far more pronounced. On Android, 80 per cent of fraudulent installs are the result of bots. On iOS, 85 per cent of bad installs are due to click flooding, in which networks send large numbers of fraudulent click reports in the hopes of delivering the last-click prior to installs.
The report found that Finance is the sector most exposed to fraud, due both to the high pay-out it offers and its position as the third largest app category. While no market is immune to fraud, the report found that fraudsters tend to favour high-scale growth markets. $750m in finance apps’ ad spend is exposed to app install fraud, with Vietnam, Indonesia, and India ranking among the worst-hit countries. Western European countries, particularly Germany, the UK and Spain, were also heavily targeted.
Travel app campaigns bore the brunt of attacks in Indonesia, India, and South Korea, but also in Saudi Arabia and France. Shopping apps were hit hard in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Southeast Asia and India.
In releasing the findings, AppsFlyer notes that 16 per cent of app install fraud is impossible to stop in real-time. The company’s Post-Attribution solution addresses the issue by blocking install fraud that is missed in real time. Post-Attribution streamlines the reconciliation process, so that advertisers get a report that can be used for settling up with media partners based on fraudulent installs. AppsFlyer customers can now view post-attribution reports and create custom post-attribution reports, enabling advertisers to analyze all fraud flagged by the technology.
“This is an important step forward in combating app install fraud,” said Mann. “We estimate our new Post-Attribution protection layer will potentially save advertisers additional millions per day in wasted ad spend.”
You can access the full report here.