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Anatomy of Mobile Ad Fraud: Bad Bots

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

As of 2022, there are approximately 5 billion internet users worldwide. With the majority of the global population residing online today, most companies have started investing in creating digital business infrastructures. Resultantly, data is now considered one of the most essential components for running businesses. The value of data is equalised to treasure in the online world. To simplify their work, many businesses employ bots. A computer program that assists companies in automating several activities to sustain the operation.

While utilising bots is considered a fairly normal practice, some internet bots are notoriously popular for malicious intent. The prevalence of bad bots suggests that cybercriminals are engaging in a lot of fraudulent activity and cyberattacks. In fact, even mobile devices are now plagued with bad bot attacks. Alarming patterns reveal an increase in the number of cyber attacks carried out by bad actors utilising bots. Given these advancements, it only makes sense to understand bad bots and learn how to combat them.

Internet bots: What Are They and How Do You Use Them?

Internet bots or bots are programs that are designed to automate online tasks. Mostly, bots are used to automate monotonous tasks. Numerous internet tools and applications employ them, and they have grown to be an essential component of what makes the internet work. Even Google uses bots as crawlers to analyse web content in its search engine. In another instance, Bots are continuously used to carry out more advanced tasks as a result of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Similarly, bots can also be used to perform questionable activities, such as delivering automated clicks and installs on targeted ads, stealing attributions from traffic sources at the last moment, injecting fake clicks, and so on. It is very clear from the above example that bots can also be, and are very often, used for mobile ad fraud. What makes a bot, a bad bot, and how can it impact businesses, let's discuss?

Type of Mobile Ad Fraud: Bad Bots

Bots that are being commanded by fraudsters are used in a variety of hacking and fraud schemes, which is concerning. Many enterprises in general, have been dealing with bot activity for years. The traffic from "bad bots," is fake. But more importantly, these automated visitors are draining companies' marketing budgets by stealing money from their ad campaigns. There are many ways through which bad bots are committing mobile ad fraud.

Digital ad fraud

Bots can be programmed to click on ads on a page, and hackers can manipulate pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns. With these false clicks, fraudsters can perform click injection, click spamming, click hijacking, etc. Resultantly, these practices can bring in money for dishonest publishers.

Background bots operating on user’s devices

Mobile bots are injected into users’ mobile devices when they install any suspicious mobile app. This malware, once installed, secretly functions in the background, draining the battery and performance memory of the device. More sophisticated bad bots can even steal data and confidential information, posing a much greater threat.

Web scraping

Moreover, hackers can also steal web content by sending bots crawlers to genuine websites. As a result, they can also spoof real websites and deceive visitors by diverting them to fake websites. In addition to stealing the content of entire websites, bots are also employed to gather particular internet data, such as contact, financial, and personal information.

Aggressive Bot attack

A network or application can be flooded with a huge quantity of traffic by malicious bots attacks. Many websites and mobile apps will stop being accessible to authorised networkers once they are flooded and the allotted resources have been consumed. In addition, spam bots can also post fraudulent comments, product reviews, and app installs in large volumes.

Fraudsters and hackers are getting more inventive with bad bots and improving sophisticated bots to keep on practicing mobile ad fraud. They are creating harder-to-detect bots by designing them to get around existing cybersecurity solutions. Hackers are able to carry out fraud activities on a large scale thanks to the usage of vast botnets.

Simply put, these bad bots are harming certain businesses, and it's imperative to build precautions that help safeguard the business interest. For marketers, it is highly important to avoid any form of mobile ad fraud, to ensure the best return on their ad spending.

Bad Bots: How Do We Combat Them?

Getting harmed by malicious bots can have negative effects. Bot traffic can impact how well a business performs in addition to using up computing resources. A bad bot attack can expose networks to other types of cyberattacks, such as data theft. It is obvious that action must be made to stop them from becoming out of control.

Here is how you can counteract the bad bots:

Identifying non-human visitors

Distinguishing between a human visitor and a bot should not be difficult, given that bots are programmed to function artificially. It is also possible for sophisticated bots to imitate actual human behaviour. However, by looking at online analytics and traffic, you can determine whether your networks are being attacked by bots. Anomaly in traffic source, increases in bandwidth usage, or login attempts can be indicators of an increase in bot activity. Potential bot activity can also be discovered by monitoring IP addresses and the geographic locations of traffic sources.

Implement improved cybersecurity solutions

The advancements in fraudulent techniques call for an equally advanced approach to fight them. After a time, manual intervention to identify mobile ad fraud can get more challenging. It thus necessitates the usage of data and machine learning to safeguard business interests. The cybersecurity solution from Com Olho can help companies stop numerous forms of mobile ad fraud, including bad bots. Start safeguarding your advertising budget right away! Schedule a free demo with Com Olho to protect your advertising campaigns.

Final Thoughts

Given the prevalence of harmful bots, advertisers and even publishers should pay close attention to their traffic. If left unchecked, poor bot traffic can quickly escalate from a nuisance to a full-fledged cyber attack. A comprehensive understanding of bots can help mitigate malicious bot attacks and protect your business and make the internet more secure for everyone.


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