Device Farms in Online Advertising
What are Device Farms?
Device farms as the name suggest are farms full of devices where mobile ad fraud mimic behaviour of clicks, installs and engagement to deliver desired needs of digital campaigns. Device farms or cheap inventory are still prevalent and can drive unimaginable volumes of clicks, installs and engagement.
The buyout can go as low as 1 USD per 100 clicks, installs or engagement. In 2015-2017, this tactic was often used to skew MAU's/DAU's to source bigger funding rounds in startups. An example of device farm shown below,
How does Device Farm work?
While bots have been at the forefront of bad actors in a large portion of ad fraud, device farms use human people to commit digital ad fraud. Employing real individuals to carry out their fraudulent schemes makes it even more difficult to detect. Their in-app behaviour is identical to a genuine visitor and thus makes it difficult to detect if the user is fake or not. But why would a group of individuals install an app when they don’t intend to use it? Let’s look into this.
A device farm is a physical location loaded with devices (mainly old mobile phones) where a large group of workers is paid to commit mobile ad fraud.
These are low-paid workers who are hired to click on sponsored advertising links on behalf of the farm master.
The farm master establishes connections with publishers and thus looks for opportunities that require paid traffic sources and target them for fraud.
The scammer simply instructs their "farmers" to continuously click on the display ads or install mobile applications until the entire advertising budget has been consumed.
The device farm operator instructs the farmers on how to download the desired apps and what post-install actions should be taken for each app. The farmers will then execute the same operations simultaneously across a number of devices.