How Hackers Infiltrate In App Gaming

6 September, 2020 | By GeoEdge

Mobile apps have come a long way from a technological novelty to one of the most essential tools for modern life.

Changes in the Mobile App Landscape

  Many people often forget that this is still a young space – consider that Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, and then launched the App Store in 2008, truly heralding the modern app era. Mobile consuming habits have changed rapidly over the last dozen years, and continue to fluctuate. Though it's long been reported that consumers spend the majority of their mobile time within a few major apps, that tide is changing in the face of disenchantment with these apps along with an increasingly diverse set of mobile users.

In this blog we dig into the developments in the mobile app space, why bad actors and malvetisers are likely to become even more of a threat in the coming months, and finally, we'll lay out best practices when it comes to finding harmony between monetizing users and providing top-notch user experience.

Why User Experience In App Matters

Users are connecting and consuming more and more content on their mobile devices -- and app publishers have quickly picked up on that. In today's app economy, competitive advantage is built through creating positive user interactions and user experiences. As MarTech Series puts it, "delighting your customers with compelling gaming experiences will drive engagement. Consistent engagement will keep them coming back to continue playing and interacting with your in-game ads, which can, eventually, boost your bottom line."

Yet, many publishers struggle to maintain a strong user experience when they are using in-app advertising for monetization. The primary question has long been, how do publishers best engage users on their most personal device? Let's just say, finding the harmony between user experience and monetization is a must. Firstly, mobile in-app ads are an excellent monetization option, as they often allow apps to befree while securing immediate cash flow.

However, the mobile ecosystem is chock full of bad actors looking to take advantage of legitimate publishers, advertisers, and users. As the last touchpoint before the user, the mobile app publisher has an enormous responsibility to thwart malevolent intent. In short, poor ads equal poor user experience, and as an app publisher or developer, monitoring ads for quality, placement, and content is a recipe for success.

Protecting Against Malicious Actors In the In App Space

Let's get a better idea of some of the risks of disregarding ad quality:

Bad ads ultimately affect user experience, engagement, and retention. With low-quality, sexually explicit, and offensive ads, often leading users to quit a game immediately. Moreover, bad ads cause user churn. And as a company, if you churn, you burn.

The most ruthless form of bad ads are malicious ads-- containing malware, auto-redirects, viruses, and other malicious strains. Far and wide, publishers in the mobile app space recognize auto-redirects as their biggest malvertising challenge -- who hasn't been served a redirect on their mobile device in the past few years? They have turned into an outright plague, but they also come in various forms—from pop-up windows offering gift cards to kidnapping users to app stores to actually downloading apps and other software.

Tech Giants Take Aim At Fraudsters

Tech giants like Google and Apple are cracking down on sites whose bad ads disrupt the user experience going as far as delisting around 600 apps from the Google Play Store. Google's Senior Product Manager detailed the characteristics of delisted apps, "Ads that are displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions. While they can occur in-app, one form of disruptive ads we've seen on the rise is something we call out-of-context ads, which is when malicious developers serve ads on a mobile device when the user is not actually active in their app."

Truth be told, it's a slippery slope. Users may not only uninstall the app but may leave a low score in the app store. Poor user experience breeds frustrated users. And frustration breeds anger; when users are fed up, they dash to the app store and leave scathing reviews! Who knows, they may even switch to a competitor's app. Meanwhile, sometimes publishers and developers are entirely blindsided – only realizing after the damage has been done.

Real Time Protection In-App

Real-time creative blocking has had a real effect on web redirects, where most transactions are tag-based. But tags don't exist in the mobile app space, and many SDKs are opaque, meaning it's hard to monitor, let alone block a bad creative before it lands in the app. Getting monitoring access at the very least within the app environment requires an ad-quality provider to integrate a software development kit (SDK).

While integrating an ad-quality SDK is an essential step in minimizing malvertising within your app, it's only the first one. Where are those bad ads coming from? SSPs today require monitoring and security beyond just real-time creative blocking.

But these ad-quality tools are ultimately futile if you don't confront your demand partners about the bad ads coming through their pipes. As publishers cull their monetization partners, high-quality demand is a premium. SSPs and exchanges are increasingly focused on filtering out malvertising sources that dent the overall quality of their ads.

Ad Quality as a Shared Responsibility

So beyond integrating an ad-quality SDK, you need to establish a feedback loop with your demand partners to pass information on low-quality advertising and malvertising easily. But not just any ad-quality provider will do. App publishers need to ensure the ad-quality SDK meets the same rigorous standards as all other SDKs, and that the provider is transparent with its tech and ultra- communicative.

The mobile device is the most personal of all devices, so user experience should always top of mind. Balancing app monetization—while safeguarding user experience, is a difficult game—but it doesn’t have to be. Partnering with the right ad quality vendor empowers you to tackle bad ads at their source and encourages revenue optimization without quality concerns.

GeoEdge allows publishers to maximize their ad revenue without quality concerns, protect their brand reputation and increase their user loyalty. GeoEdge guards digital businesses against unwanted, malicious, offensive and inappropriate ads – without sacrificing revenue. Learn more at