Eight Android apps have been found to be involved in an ad fraud scheme, and these apps that can be downloaded in Google Play Store have more than 2 billion downloads in total.
The ad fraud was discovered by an app analytics and attribution company called Kochava, and 7 of the apps are owned by a Chinese company known as Cheetah Mobile that was previously accused of fraudulent business practices. The remaining app is by Kika Tech which is a company that received huge investment from Cheetah Mobile two years back.
The fraud is predicted to have stolen million of dollars by ripping off app developers who pay their partners a certain amount of fees when they drive users to install new apps. The two companies claimed credit for causing downloads of other apps, which is known as click flooding and click injection, whereby the rewards are credited to them despite the fact that they’re not involved in any part of the installation processes.
However, both companies have denied the claims made by Kochava, with Kika Tech’s US general manager stating that they were unaware and have no plans to be involved in fraudulent practices. On the other hand, Cheetah Mobile told BuzzFeed News that the fraud was carried out by third-party software development kits (SDK) and the company will look into the matter. These are rather doubtful statements as Kochava found that the click flooding and injection in Kika Keyboard app are done by the company’s own software and functionalities, and the SDK that is involved in the fraud was developed by Cheetah itself, not third parties.
That aside, Google has yet to remove the apps from Play Store, nor did the company advise users against downloading the apps. Google has just recently got through the incident of 13 apps with malware that affected over half a million users, but with this new incident, Google will need a longer time to rebuild their reputation. Perhaps it’s really time for Google to be slightly more like Apple in terms of the strict regulation of Apple’s App Store.