Whilst you were sleeping: Over 1,300 Google Play store apps contain bots which engage with mobile ads during sleep mode

App fraud is becoming smarter. According to latest findings, 1,300 apps in the Google Play store include a code which can turn on Android phones when they’re in “sleep mode” to engage with mobile ads. All this happens without the device owner’s knowledge.

The click attempts were detected by Anura, the fraud protection software from eZanga that identifies bots and human fraud. Specifically, the company isolated two of these apps (Lovely Rose and Oriental Beauty) to monitor for fraudulent activity over a 24-hour period. During that period, a device click log confirmed over 3,061 ad requests which had been made by these apps to ad networks. The clicks came from a bot.

Bots tends to run automatically in the background without a device owner even aware of them being there. When it comes to advertising, their sole purpose is to drive ad activity. They’ve become so big that $6.5 billion will be lost in bots this year.

The apps identified by Anura could be costing brands between $2 million to $10 million a day. That is money lots to bots versus real human traffic. However, it becomes harder to identify bots that run fewer clicks at a time as these may bypass ad fraud filters. In addition, some bots come with human profiles which are then identified through ad targeting.

However, bots aren’t just bad for advertisers; consumers may also note some intrusion aside from being targeted with ads they aren’t interested in. For example, apps containing bots may drain device batteries faster or pile on data charges depending on one’s mobile plan. In addition, consumers are putting themselves at risk of malware being added onto their devices which poses a real security and privacy threat.

Rich Kahn, CEO of eZanga, explains:

“Anura’s findings are critical in understanding how fraudulent activity affects consumers and advertisers. Fraud is like the flu. Every year, it evolves, forming new strains for which we have to create vaccines. Similarly, fraudsters constantly create ways to manipulate systems, and it’s imperative that all parties involved are aware of what is happening and how to prevent it.”