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Forced mobile redirect: best practices to counter it

By Nyssa Marchand,
Director of Client Services
January 30th 2018

Forced mobile redirect is a phenomenon that has been around for several years, but has lately been causing headaches for publishers.

January is often the prime time for forced mobile redirect as demand is lower and bigger brands and agencies don’t run as many heavy campaigns. This leaves more room for attackers to launch fraudulent ads and weasel their way in at very low CPM’s, as the competition is low.

What is forced mobile redirect?

When a user accesses a web page through their mobile browser or even installed apps on their phone, they are automatically redirected towards an unrequested website, which will usually try to lure users into some sort of scam.

This happens when third-party ad networks push an ad with redirecting characteristics on a website. The reason those ads go through can be attributed to two things: either the ads are not audited as they pass through the exchange, or the attackers manage to hide the redirecting feature to make it seem innocent.

This phenomenon has been mainly observed on mobile (around 95% according to our experts), with the other cases happening on desktop.

What are the implications for the industry?

Of course, such intrusive and malicious technology is not without consequences. Here are some impacts we are seeing right now on the industry:

  • Increased ad blocker usage

Ad blocking has already cost significant revenue loss for the industry, which can be attributed to several factors. This type of scam will make matters worse in the sense that ad blockers will become more rigid and penalize publishers even more.

  • Loss of traffic

Unfortunately, forced mobile redirects can happen to even the most premium publishers. Considering the frustrating experience and the shady impression users may get from the attacked publisher, they might decide to not return on the website, thus ensuing in a loss of traffic, and so a loss of impression in the long run.

Are there any initiatives to counter this?

As this has been a prominent issue for publishers for some time, several initiatives of various scale are underway to counter those attacks.

Google had announced that the ad blocker integrated into Chrome 64, which launched on January 23rd, would work, on both desktop and mobile, to block redirecting ads by informing the user that an ad is trying to redirect them and by providing information on the fraudulent advertiser.

On a more individual scale, SSPs and exchanges are now tightening their audit process to increasingly block fraudulent ads.

Best practices for publishers

Publishers can take action at various levels to prevent, or at the very least reduce their exposure to such malware - here are our best practices:

  • Work with trusted exchanges

History speaks for itself - Reinforce reliable and trustworthy relationships that you have built and prioritize them.

  • Adopt quality solutions

A wave of publishers has started to adopt protection solutions such as Confiant or GeoEdge, which can prevent to some extent these attacks and ensure a cleaner flow of ads for publishers. Though those solutions may seem costly at first, it can be worth it in the long run.

  • Share the information

Whether it is through public forums or just by shooting an email to your monetizing partners, sharing the information and insight that you have on this issue can go a long way. If you find fraudulent ad partners or “fake agencies”, by spreading the information, we run a better chance of blocking them at large.

district m is committed to providing the best performances to publishers while contributing to better user experience. This is why we are dedicated to rapidly identifying unsafe sources of traffic and removing them from our exchange.

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