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New Hidden Video Ad Scam Eats Up Data, Battery of Android Users: Report

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New Hidden Video Ad Scam Eats Up Data, Battery of Android Users: Report

The scam tricks both app developers and advertisers, apart from affecting users

Highlights
  • Protected Media was the first to uncover this giant ad scam
  • Ad fraudsters played video ads behind banner ads eating data
  • Registering unethical video ad views garnered more profits

A new scam has been discovered wherein fraudsters run video ads behind banner images draining users' batteries and data, while also scamming advertisers and app developers in the process, all of this, in order to make a hefty profit. This ad fraud scheme was uncovered by fraud detection firm Protected Media - it affects many apps, and allows for stealing of ‘tens of millions of dollars per month'. BuzzFeed News reports that these invalid video ads running behind banners were linked to an Israeli company named Aniview, and its subsidiary OutStream Media.

The new fraud works in a manner where the app developer and the advertisers both are scammed by the ad tech company involved in the middle. The app developer sells a banner ad, which appears in their app and is seen by the users that downloads their app. Behind that banner, fraudsters autoplay video ads that the app users cannot see, but it gets registered as viewed.

Because of this practice, the advertiser, who pays more for a video ad, isn't really getting what they paid for, as the viewer is not really seeing the ad. And even the app developer settles for less price for a banner ad, wherein he is entitled for a video ad price. Both the parties suffer losses, and the gains are snatched away by the ad fraudsters. Furthermore, this ad scam also drains app users' batteries and data in the process.

BuzzFeed reports that Aniview denies any involvement, and claims that a third malicious party has exploited its code and banner ads. However, Protected Media says that Aniview and its subsidiary, OutStream Media, have indulged in the ad fraud. The fraud detection firm even has video, code, and other information as evidence.

The term for this ad fraud is coined as ‘in-banner video ads' and Asaf Greiner, the CEO of Protected Media, told BuzzFeed that "they've seen tens of millions of dollars' worth of fraudulent video ads running per month."

Aniview CEO Alon Carmel told BuzzFeed that his company “does not knowingly engage in any fraudulent activity.” He said that OutStream Media made images and code in an unauthorised manner, and bad actors used Aniview's video ad platform to generate fraud income. He said that OutStream Media had ceased operations last summer and that Aniview is in the process of legally shutting it down.

In any case, if you find that an app is using up a lot of data and battery, it could possibly be because this new ad fraud scheme is at play. While ad-free apps are ideal, often developer's only source of revenue is advertising.

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Tasneem Akolawala Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com. More
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