If you've ever noticed that your phone's battery was depleting for no reason, it may be because of an extensive system of hidden video advertisements now coming to light.
There are many different reasons why the battery of a smartphone can be discharged faster than usual, for example in a hot climate or a screen too bright. However, one aspect that you can not consider spontaneously is that something malicious is happening before your eyes.
This is what was discovered by a company called Protected Media that, through BuzzFeed News, discovered a global advertising fraud system that hides video ads behind standard banner ads. Unbeknownst to the person viewing the application page, their battery will run out faster due to the number of videos trying to be loaded at the same time.
The system starts when an innocent application developer sells a banner ad that normally appears to anyone viewing his app. However, behind the banner, scammers are coming in to set up a series of more lucrative hidden video ads than it is impossible to see for a regular user.
Despite this, the code says that someone has "watched" these video ads that are much more lucrative for fraudsters than the original banner does for the developer, and especially for the advertiser d & # 39; origin.
This type of fraud, called video advertising in the banner, is not an entirely new phenomenon, but Protected Media discovered that a newer version had significantly increased their number, potentially generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue. fraudulent advertising.
Masters of disguise
In an attempt to determine its origin, the firm and independent auditors have associated part of the fraud scheme with an Israeli video technology company based in the United States called Aniview. However, Aniview firmly denied any connection to the scheme, claiming that the code produced by one of its subsidiaries – OutStream Media – had been exploited by a mysterious third party.
In a statement, Aniview CEO Alon Carmel said the program was immediately brought to the attention of the company. She immediately started an internal review and informed their clients of the rules.
Another advertising fraud investigation firm, DoubleVerify, said it had identified the same ploy towards the end of last year. Roy Rosenfeld, his vice president of product management, said the scammers "have hid well and obscured what they did" and were "quite sophisticated in thinking behind how they can monetize this inventory."
The Protected Media survey also found that a significant number of fraudulent advertisements had been purchased through MoPub, Twitter's mobile advertising network. Without indicating that the Twitter platform was directly involved in the scam, this shows that the platform has been exploited for months by scammers.
"At this point, we can confirm that the suspicious activity in question is not initiated by MoPub," said a spokesman for Twitter's subsidiary. "The activity observed by Protected Media comes from an ad that launches other non-searchable video ads to run in the background. We are currently studying the potential sources of the problem. "