Smart Scams Let Ads Drain Your Android Phone Battery, App Developers Had No Idea

We all know general facts about scams and malware. There was also a theory that an app or a webpage can steal processor cycles to use it for cryptocurrency mining, thus draining the battery and stealing data on a phone. According to a report on Buzzfeed, ad networks found a similar scam that lets video ads run behind banner ads in Android Apps. This will drain the battery and steal a lot of data without users even knowing about it.

“Fraudsters are purchasing cheap in-app display inventory and are filling it with multiple video players behind innocuous fake branded display ads,” explains the CEO of Protected Media, Asaf Greiner.

Advertising Networks and App Developers Had No Clue about It

App developers had no idea of this issue, and they were even surprised to hear that their apps drained the batteries and consumed users’ data. Not even the advertising networks knew about it, says the report. The theory is that scammers hijacked the ad networks, and Buzzfeed stated the following:

“The company’s findings, along with additional reporting and interviews by BuzzFeed News, and independent verification from an outside ad fraud lab, show that one of the players implicated in this scheme is Aniview [and its subsidiary OutStream], an Israeli company with offices in New York that runs a video ad technology platform.”

The company replied to the journalist and said that they stopped the activity to conduct an internal incident review, and that the subsidiary “had ceased operations last summer,” waiting to be legally shut down:

“To be crystal clear, another customer on Aniview’s [self-serve] platform used this player and is responsible for this activity and we took actions immediately to stop this activity,” stated Carmel (Aniview).

In-Banner Video Ads Scamming Everyone

App developers are concerned because the app’s reputation will be damaged. The scam can hurt users by draining the batteries and data from their cells, but also the developers and the advertising networks.

When an app delivers a banner add, it will get money for that banner, but the fraudulent video beneath it that cannot be seen will be worth much more, and neither the developer of the app, not the advertising network gets that money – it all goes to scam.

The scam is known as “in-banner video ads,” and according to Protected Media, the scammers make “tens of millions of dollars” off the hidden ads.

However, OutStream is not the only company doing it, added Greiner, saying that more ad tech companies have been involved in this fraud:

“One of them [executive of such a company] spoke to my VP of sales and said everybody does it, why are we picking on them. It’s something we hear too often, unfortunately.”

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