Mobile Ad Fraud: Layer Your Defence With IP Intelligence

by Charlie Johnson Digital Element

Where audiences flow, advertisers follow — with a device in almost every UK household (95%), it’s only logical that mobile ad spend is climbing. Set to hit $165.7 billion in 2019, rising global investment will soon make mobile the largest ad channel across multiple key markets.

But this prosperity is drawing unwanted attention too. Ad fraud is growing: total advertising losses are due to reach $42 billion this year, with fraudsters pocketing 10% of mobile spend. In fact, the threat posed by fraud is so great that international bodies are uniting; see the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) initiative, which allows UK firms to use the US Certified Against Ad Fraud stamp.

To protect mobile budgets, businesses must adopt robust fraud detection and prevention. But they should proceed with care. While malicious traffic dents revenues, blanket blocking that cuts off genuine users can be just as damaging. Effective defence requires a layered approach, where granular assessment identifies the real fraudsters.

Tracing The Source Of Fraud

The key advantage of layered protection is its scope, assessing traffic on multiple levels to catch all potential signs of suspicious activity, and identifying user location is the essential first stage. By establishing where connections stem from, particularly the origin country of IP addresses, companies can gain the insight needed to drive a range of fraud defences.

For instance, there is a high chance that sudden traffic surges from areas outside an advertising campaign’s targeting zone are fraudulent. By detecting these spikes, firms can quickly shut down high-risk users before they do any damage. Additionally, location data can be used to stop invalid engagement skewing results; filtering out clicks from regions where goods and services aren’t available, or monitoring unrealistic jumps in click distance. Real clicks that fuel mobile app downloads typically occur close to the original interaction location, so a large proximity gap could be a sign of fraud; as can high click to install ratios.

Of course, success is reliant on data value. While IP data is becoming more accessible, quality varies; especially when information is spliced together from internet registries. If companies want precision — including the ability to pinpoint IP location to specific postcodes, without personally identifying users — choosing granular, regularly updated sources is essential.

Assessing Connection Features

Working up from location, IP data can then be harnessed to obtain deeper insight about connection traits, and whether they reveal any telltale signs of fraud. At a starter level, this may involve scrutinising traffic with a focus on access connections that are vulnerable to interference from cyber criminals, such as public Wi-Fi, internet cafes, or university networks. Going a step further, advanced IP analysis can also evaluate characteristics associated with fraud.

Proxies, for instance, are popular with fraudsters and genuine users. By assessing the sort of proxy in use, companies can differentiate between those seeking better online privacy and bad actors striving to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Plus, similar sorting techniques can be applied to other fraud favourites, such as data and hosting centres. A common choice for launching multi-IP attacks, these facilities should only be a gateway for traffic, meaning connections originating from them must be evaluated; particularly if traffic springs from one IP address.

The Best Defence Is Multi-Faceted

On its own, IP data moves companies closer to more effective fraud prevention in multiple environments, including mobile. But it’s even more powerful when part of a multi-faceted defensive strategy. Combined with additional tools and data, IP intelligence about where users are and the sort of connection they use can achieve deeper individual understanding over time. And, in turn, this can drive refined techniques such as behavioural analysis that identifies unusual activity and instantly blocks real threats. For instance, it can aid in tracking home and work networks, and spotting when corporate Wi-Fi is accessed outside normal patterns, or determine the different between genuine and high-risk mobile ad clicks.

While the rise of mobile is good news for companies aiming to boost their advertising reach and brand awareness, it brings its own challenges. From the fraudster’s perspective, continual growth in mobile ad budgets means only one thing: increasingly great sums to be made. But this doesn’t mean mobile marketing needs to slim down; firms must hone their ability to fight the fraudsters feeling to tap their spend. By adopting a multi-layered defence that utilises accurate data location data, detailed connection insight, and varied forms of sophisticated analysis, firms can keep budgets where they belong; out of fraudsters’ hands.