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Anatomy of Mobile Ad Fraud: Device Farms

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

Suppose that your business has just released a new mobile application with all of its features in a single place. Now, as a marketer, you want to encourage users to download it so they can also enjoy its offerings. With a smart marketing strategy, you can easily gain installs for your mobile app, and a good number of installs. But there is a catch. After some time, your app's engagement statistics will reveal some eye opening information.

It is very common for businesses to fall victim to mobile ad fraud. More specifically, fake click and install frauds have been skewing the marketing efforts of brands since their inception. Device Farm (also known as click farm) is one such click fraud technique that can yield huge volumes of clicks and installs on your app, but all those engagements are likely be fake. Let's understand what Device Farm is, how it works, and what marketers can do to prevent themselves from these fraudulent activities?

Type of Mobile Ad Fraud: Device Farm

Device farm is a type of mobile ad fraud that drains advertising spending by having fraudsters manually carry out actions (such as clicks, installs, and other forms of interaction) on your ads or mobile apps. More specifically, Device Farms are real-world places where a lot of devices are stored together to execute mobile click fraud.

Device Farm or Click Farm or Phone Farm is a traditional form of fraud that continues to make up a sizeable portion of mobile ad fraud because it is a relatively easy form of the crime. The farms are just a huge group of gadgets that have been programmed to carry out some operation, like an install, and then repeat this action repeatedly. Resultantly this depletes display-based marketing efforts by repeatedly clicking on mobile advertising.

How does Device Farm operate and how does it affect businesses?

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.

How Device Farms Operate?

Device Farms | Mobile Ad Fraud
  1. A device farm is a physical location loaded with devices (mainly old mobile phones) where a large group of workers is paid to commit ad fraud.

  2. These are low-paid workers who are hired to click on sponsored advertising links on behalf of the farm master. For many of these individuals, clicking on enough adverts every day can significantly boost their revenue.

  3. The farm master establishes connections with publishers and thus looks for opportunities that require paid traffic sources and target them for fraud.

  4. Device farm is effective in Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns and mobile app installs. 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.

  5. 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.

How do your marketing campaigns suffer from Device Farms?

Here are some of the negative implications of device farms on businesses :

Waste Ad Spending

Since the traffic is coming from fraudulent sources, it would not result in real customers. As a result, Device farms can swiftly deplete your advertising budget without offering any genuine return on investment.

Skewed Marketing Results and Reports

Digital Ad Fraud can deceive marketers into believing that their marketing efforts are not drawing the proper results and thus could have damaging effects on their future campaigns. Marketers will obtain the targeted install numbers but will not get the desired engagements. Inaccurate data will ruin the marketing efforts of your business.

Shorten Ad Campaign Lifetime

One of the typical objectives of device farms is to flood ad campaigns with massive traffic, hence shortening the duration of your advertising efforts. A fraudster will use a click farm and bots to send hundreds of thousands of clicks on your ads in a matter of minutes, eliminating your PPC advertisements from Google search and other platforms. This would also prevent qualified leads from seeing your adverts.

How to detect Device Farm fraud?

Device farm mobile ad fraud will benefit the fraudster with immediate financial gain at the cost of marketers. The fraudster instructs the bad actors to interact with mobile apps, which helps them make money. As a result, it is critical for companies to stay up with fraudulent techniques. Device farms are a common mobile ad fraud technique, and there are methods developed to counteract them.

Monitoring Traffic Source

If most of your clicks originate from IP addresses that are assigned to suspicious locations (eg China, India, or Russia), it is possible that the traffic is coming from a click farm. Numerous installs from a single device or from various identical IP addresses can help in spotting basic device farms.

Choose the ideal publisher for your advertisements

It is important to thoroughly assess your ad partner in order to prevent mobile ad fraud. Not all advertisers or supply-side platform (SSP) providers are honest or ethical. Some publishers engage in device farms to fulfill the requirements of their partners. Having a knowledge of your publisher’s ad networks might help you safeguard the marketing objective and increase engagement.

Using data-driven technology to prevent Ad fraud

After a degree, manual intervention to detect mobile ad fraud can become more difficult. Com Olho’s cybersecurity solution can assist businesses in preventing various types of mobile ad fraud such as device farming. Start protecting your ad spending right away! Schedule a free demo with Com Olho to secure your advertising initiatives.

Additional Note

Device Farm is also used to deliver fake numbers of likes, subscribers, followers, etc. on social media. Of course, there is a cost to this. For most users, this is very little. However, fraudsters are making a fortune from it.

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