Fighting bot fraud effectively: A Mobile Presence podcast recap with CTO Paul H. Müller

Anne Verhoeven

Aug 12, 2019

Bot fraud poses a severe threat to apps across all verticals, and the sophistication of these cybercrime operations are increasing at an alarming rate. A report from ThreatMetrix revealed that companies fell victim to 3 billion automated bot attacks in the latter half of 2018 — 189 million of these originated from mobile devices, a 12% increase from the first six months of 2018.

In a recent episode of the Mobile Presence podcast, Peggy Anne Salz hosted Paul H. Müller, and talked about the repercussions of bot fraud and how marketers can fight back to protect their app and brand.

Human behavior or sophisticated in-app bot?

In-app bots are designed to simulate human behavior, so they can easily go undetected by traditional methods. As Paul explains, when Adjust became aware of this new breed of ad fraud, it initially looked like the app was "genuinely run on a device," but that everything seemed "just too artificial and we couldn't figure out what the problem was."

Cue Unbotify. Adjust acquired the award-winning tech company in early 2019, which uses biometric sensor data from mobile devices to help detect what's human and what's a bot. They process a rich range of data points to determine things like finger pressure and movement on the screen to the orientation of the phone.

Thanks to Unbotify's deep understanding of human behavior patterns, Adjust is uniquely-placed to help marketers combat bot fraud. This is because Unbotify's technology uses machine learning to build bespoke models of authentic human behavior and natural user flow — in-app activity that bots are unable to fake.

Top verticals at risk

While all kinds of apps are at risk, Paul zeroes in on Gaming and E-commerce, two verticals most affected by bot fraud. In the case of Gaming, Paul explains that fraudsters use bots to automate gameplay, which gives them an unfair advantage over real players. Common tactics include resource farming — gaining credit without grinding or waiting for it (or making in-app purchases) — and automated PvP, which plays at a “far superior pace than real humans.”

This not only takes the fun out of competing and leads to general user churn, but also drives away the so-called “whales” — the big spenders who invest heavily in your game and may leave quickly if they are frustrated by gameplay dominated by unbeatable bots.

Another app vertical prey to bot attack is E-commerce. Research reveals that 2.1 billion bot attacks targeted e-commerce merchants alone in the second half of 2018. A common tactic includes scalping, where bots purchase sought-after goods in large amounts and at an unbeatable pace. As Paul puts it, when items are “sold out in five seconds” customers will feel frustrated with the retail experience and aren’t “going to have a positive association with that brand.” Another cause for concern is login attacks — when bots test stolen credentials to gain access to users' accounts.

Preparing for battle

How can app marketers best prepare to combat bots? Paul believes that "it all starts with awareness." It’s also crucial for marketers to "question data that might not sit right, or seem too good to be true."

He suggests marketers keep their finger on the pulse of what users are saying (and posting) about the app. Your users, he adds, are “an army of testers” and you can learn loads about your app (and whether bots are spoiling the experience) by reading the reviews on social, in online forums and the app store. Paul also recommends appointing someone within your organization to focus on fraud and work to help your business mitigate the risks.

You can catch Paul speaking about Unbotify in person in his keynote speech at Adjust’s Mobile Spree conference in San Francisco on October 10th, 2019. Learn more about Unbotify or get in touch to request a demo.

Want to get the latest from Adjust?