Click validation

David Murphy - Sponsored by: Adjust

Paul H. Müller, co-founder and CTO at mobile measurement and fraud prevention company Adjust, explains why every click needs an impression and how the company’s new standard delivers against this ideal.

While ad fraud is one of the most discussed topics in mobile these days, it’s Adjust that has led the charge to fight it, with industry-leading measures that stop fraud before it reaches campaign budgets – rather than detecting it after the funds have gone.
Click Validation is Adjust’s new standard in the fight against fraud, taking the next logical step in cleaning up our industry and protecting our clients. Our system works thanks to one simple rule: for every click, there must be an impression.

The status quo
Common sense dictates that users can only click on ads if they’ve actually been served them and have seen them. However, ad channels are free to claim the click for an ad without telling attribution partners about any prior impressions. This creates a real issue where fraudulent clicks are delivered which could otherwise be validated with impression data.

Our clients are often stunned to learn that many partners won’t provide us with proof that an ad was delivered before a user clicks on it. This is heightened by the fact that network partners must, for their own systems to work, track impressions and ad delivery anyway. The technology to share this crucial data with attribution partners already exists, but it isn’t shared with us.

With Adjust’s new standard for Click Validation, we require ad partners to share this data with us, so we can answer a v ery simple question: was there a matching impression for a click? With this data, we can end several pervasive forms of fraud for good.

The numbers don’t add up
To give some perspective: Adjust receives over 1bn clicks per day. This is an incredible amount of activity. However, this figure doesn’t include major self-attributing networks, and only represents Adjust’s share of the market. Given that it’s clicks that we’re looking at, there are simply not enough people on earth to actually produce this number of legitimate engagements.

Raising the bar
With Click Validation, we’re able to filter through this number immediately, and we’re able to deliver accurate data to our customers. Our approach allows us to confirm whether a click is logically possible, as we’re able to check if there is a matching impression within a reasonable timeframe made by the same device.

This seemingly trivial requirement dramatically increases the workload for fraudsters: given a normal click-through rate of 1 per cent, an attacker would have to create 100 times more data to spoof properly, which makes click spamming much more expensive and easier to spot. Click injection is rendered impossible to perform, as an attacker could not generate any previous impressions. And while there are still some ways to steal attribution and spoof engagements, the cost of doing so will increase significantly.

It’s just common sense, and it’s at the heart of our new system: for every click, there must be an impression.

This article first appeared in the February 2019 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the complete issue online here