November 14, 2019

Singular releases tool for stopping ad fraud on Android

Last Updated on

Singular said it has released a first-in-industry tool that detects far more ad fraud on Android mobile devices than existing solutions, saving customers millions of dollars annually.

If you’re a mobile game or app publisher, you will probably never know how much ad fraud costs you, according to a report on ad fraud by Singular.

You can look at the big picture: Consider the $19 billion eMarketer says advertisers lose to fraud or the $42 billion Juniper Research says fraudsters drain from marketers’ pockets. More specifically, you can look at what your fraud prevention tool says it has saved you.

But fraud doesn’t just waste yesterday’s dollars. Fraud also wastes tomorrow’s ad spend, according to Singular.

The San Francisco company says publishers make ad-buying decisions for the future based on results in the recent past. And when that past contains fraud, the publisher is optimizing ad campaigns based on bad data. The result is more and more fraud.

That’s the reason Singular just released what it says is the first deterministic Android Install Validation, along with multiple other new innovations, in an updated Fraud Prevention suite. The suite includes features for iOS install validation, hyper engagement (when shady actors flood ad networks with fake clicks, trying to gain credit for an app install or a conversion), and for many more types of fraud.

Singular said there has never been install validation for Android before. That’s a problem because multiple studies have found more ad fraud on Android than on iOS, although the fraudsters are working hard to catch up on iOS.

So a deterministic solution to identify fake app installs on Android is a big deal. Most fraud prevention solutions rely on probabilistic tests to figure out, with some level of certainty, if an app install is fraudulent. They might analyze the time between a click on an ad to an app open. Or they might blacklist some IP addresses that have looked shady in the past, Singular said.

These and other methods can help, but they are not good enough to stop highly motivated fraudsters from running large scale (and highly profitable) app install fraud campaigns. The fraudsters know them, and in large part circumvent them.

Singular use these methods, but now has developed a deterministic method to prevent Android fraud right at the point of install. Legitimate Android app installs trigger a set of server communications to Google Play and potentially other servers. They then store the responses to these messages on-device. Parsing these files, plus checking activity timestamps and other information about the device enables Singular to make a deterministic call on the legitimacy of the install.

The result: new clients report 80% and higher percentages of fraud in multiple ad networks they’re using. Existing clients who were already using Singular’s fraud prevention also found more fraud.

Singular first-in-industry technology detects far more fraud on Android mobile devices than existing solutions, saving customers millions of dollars annually.

To fight back, Singular has built a team of cyber-security experts with roots in Unit 8200, the elite Israeli intelligence division that has been called “the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world.”

“Spending resources on fraudulent traffic is something Glu is actively working to prevent,” says John Parides, senior director of user acquisition at Glu, maker of the Deer Hunter, in a statement. “Singular’s new fraud-fighting technology helps our User Acquisition team focus on legitimate campaigns and significantly boost return on ad spend.”

Most standard fraud detection is probabilistic: essentially a guess with varying degrees of certainty. It cannot be too aggressive, because that increases error rates. The resulting false positives (and false negatives) waste marketers’ time and money, especially because fraudsters have learned to defeat most probabilistic models. Deterministic methods are harder to find, but when discovered, they are vastly better and can be as aggressive as necessary because they introduce no false positives.

And that changes the playing field. Singular’s cyber-security team used our unique scale to uncover new signals which can deterministically identify whether a Google Play app install is genuine or fake. This new technology is the first that can tell for certain which installs are valid: real device, real user, actual intent. In addition, the team reverse-engineered how fraudsters work and how they defeat probabilistic technologies, then built new tools to help marketers fight back.

“Singular’s new progressive anti-fraud solution detected more ad fraud than competing solutions,” said Ronak Jain, mobile marketing manager at Cleartrip, the top travel technology platform for emerging markets, in a statement. “This is a game-changer and will play a key role in making growth decisions.”

Along with Android Install Validation, Singular is also releasing updated solutions to combat click injection and organic poaching, methods for fraudsters to steal credit for installs that ad networks legitimately caused, or were organic, natural customer behavior.

“Our mission is to help companies grow faster and smarter by using data. If your data isn’t clean, or is riddled with fraud, you are paralyzed and can’t make any decisions,” said Singular CEO Gadi Eliashiv, in a statement. “This breakthrough technology is the result of continuous investment Singular makes in hiring the best talent in the world for the task of fighting against marketing fraud.”