It is unfortunate how mobile ad fraud is growing. According to a Q1 2018 report (.pdf) from AppsFlyer, “mobile app marketers were exposed to 30 percent more fraud (as compared to the 2017 quarterly average), reaching $700-$800 million worldwide. The share of fraudulent installs has also grown by 15%, tainting 11.5% of all marketing-driven installs.”
BuzzFeed News has reported that, according to app analytics company Kochava, seven apps owned by Chinese firm Cheetah Mobile are accused of engaging in app-download fraud, although Cheetah has denied the allegations. There is an app owned by a different Chinese firm, Kika Tech has also been accused of the same thing.
Both company apps are alleged to have fraudulently claimed credit for third party app downloads on phones where their apps were installed. This fraud is called “click injection.” In this case, SDKs on a user’s phone create fake clicks to fraudulently claim attribution. The apps in question include Clean Master, Battery Doctor and Cheetah Keyboard among others. Cheetah has blamed any fraud on third party SDKs integrated with its apps.
This BuzzFeed report comes after a report last month that discovered “a sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere.”
Following the report, Google took action and removed many of those dubious apps.