A new report by security firm, Forensiq reveals that many apps on Android and iOS smartphones are secretly running ads which the users cant see but yet are billed to the advertisers. Forensiq study reveals that such apps not only defraud the marketeers but also slow down the smartphone considerably. It also burns a big hole in the smartphone users pockets by downloading unwanted data without their implicit consent of knowledge.
Forensiq conducted the study over a ten day period across United States, Europe and Asia, on both Android smartphone and Apple devices. It found one percent of all devices observed in the U.S. ran at least one app committing this kind of fraud; in Europe and Asia, two to three percent of devices encountered fake ads.
The Forensiq study identified over 5,000 apps that display unseen ads on both Apple and Android devices. Advertisers are paying about $850 million for these ads each year, according to the report, and the apps with the highest rate of ad fraud can burn through 2 gigabytes of data per day on a single device.
The Forensiq study noticed that some apps were calling up ads at such a high frequency which indicated that this was not done by human users. The apps, says Forensiq, were hitting these numbers by showing as many as five ads in the background for every ad visible to users. Some apps continued to scroll through ads even after the app had been closed.
Unlike many other types of malicious software, the apps also serve a legitimate purpose. Many of them are simple games or utilities, and they seem to have real users.“It’s not Angry Birds or Candy Crush, but these are apps that people play and enjoy and some real effort went into developing,” says David Sendroff, Forensiq’s founder and chief executive.
Forensiq’s report doesn’t actually name any of the apps, but the firm revealed several of the suspicious apps to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg says that the prime one of them was a breastfeeding app for Apple devices published by American Baby magazine and app developer Sevenlogics called the Baby Nursing / Breastfeeding (Baby Diary, Timer & Activities log). The invisible ads tout Olive Garden, Amazon, and IBM. The App is still found on Apple Play Store and has a rating of 4 stars.
One review, posted by someone describing herself as “Annoyed and Frustrated Mommy” has given a valid point about the app.
Bloomberg reached out to Sevenlogics whose, president, Alex Cheng, says it hasn’t added any code that would run invisible ads. He says the company does work with advertising technology who regularly change their own technology. “We are monitoring very closely with our ad vendors to prevent any intrusive advertisements,” he says. While, Meredith Corporation, the publisher of American Baby, declined to comment.
Other apps on Google Android App store reveal similar ad sucking apps like Waxing Eyebrows, Celebrity Baby, and Vampire Doctor, all published by the developer Girls Games Only. Forensiq’s video shows these also running code that produces a steady stream of unseen advertisements from companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Mercedes Benz. The performance issues are almost certainly caused by the extra load resulting from the apps’ secondary functions, says Forensiq.
Girls Games Only did not respond to requests for comment. On Thursday, Google has suspended Waxing Eyebrows, Celebrity Baby, and Vampire Doctor published by them.
Such apps though dont belong to malware category can be categorised as semi malware for defrauding the ad agencies as well as slowing down smartphones.
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