Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese Mobile Adtech company and Application developers, along with Kika Tech, another Chinese app developer have committed millions of dollars ad fraud, at least according to a claim from Kochava published in Buzzfeednews.
The Mobile Ad Fraud industry
A report published by Appsflyer describing the state of fraud for Q1 2018 shows reasons to worry: “The share of fraudulent installs has also grown by 15%, tainting 11.5% of all marketing-driven installs. “. And this costed brands a staggering brand $700-$ 800M!
Fraud in mobile advertising can take many faces and concerns all the categories, OS and type of apps, so it is no longer the case of an isolated individual trying to rack a few bucks in their garage but could be coming from firm listed in the New York Stock Exchange
The Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech Fraud Case
Seven Cheetah Mobile’s apps have been accused of participating and one app for Chinese developers Kika Tech have been accused of participating in Click Flooding and Click Injection practices. The objective of Click Flooding and Click Injection is to take credit for a user app installation without even playing a role in it.
List of Apps accused of doing Click Flooding and Click Injection :
- Clean Master – com.cleanmaster.mguard
- Security Master – com.cleanmaster.security
- CM Launcher 3D – com.ksmobile.launcher
- Kika Keyboard – com.qisiemoji.inputmethod
- Battery Doctor
- Cheetah Keyboard
- CM Locker – com.cmcm.locker
- CM File Manager – com.rhmsoft.fm
Obviously, Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech both denied being involved in such behavior and are putting the blame on 3rd Party Monetization SDK and Ad Networks, even though Kochava specifies that the SDK involved in the fraudulent behavior has been made been by Cheetah itself. We will have to wait and see.
Click Flooding and Click Injection: How does it work?
In order to acquire new users, application developers run what is commonly called “User Acquisition” campaigns where they would pay sites or applications owner anywhere from cents to $10+ (depending on the app category) for every user that has downloaded an application while visiting their website or app. In a nutshell, if you visit the site A and click on a banner promoting the latest mobile app, then download and open the app. The App will then check where the last click is coming from and, in this case, site A will receive a commission because you originated from this site.
Companies engaged in Click Flooding and Click Injection are trying to make the app think that the last click came from them.
Click Flooding basically consists in sending a huge amount of clicks in the hope that one of them will be the last one.
Click Injection is a bit more tricky. When you install the App A, it contains SDKs (Software Development Kit) and surely it will contain a monetization SDK which takes care of displaying ads (display, native, video ads,..). This app listens to “install broadcasts” and will be able to “listen” to be aware of the app that you are installing. Now let say you visit a website X, see the App B that you like, click on a banner, land on the Google Play Store and download the app. During the installation of this app, the App A, which has already noticed that the App B is being installed, will trigger a fake click before the install is complete. When App B has been installed, it will “look for” the last click and here we go, the last click came from the App A, which will get the commission, instead of the Website X.