Cheetah Mobile—a prominent Chinese app company, known for its popular utility apps like Clean Master and Battery Doctor—and one of its subsidiary Kika Tech have allegedly been caught up in an Android ad fraud scheme that stole millions of dollars from advertisers.
According to app analytics firm Kochava, 7 Android apps developed by Cheetah Mobile and 1 from Kika Tech with a total 2 billion downloads on Google Play Store have been accused of falsely claiming the credits for driving the installation of new apps in order to claim a fee or bounty.
Many mobile application developers generate revenue by promoting and recommending the installation of other apps inside their apps for a fee or a bounty that typically ranges from $0.50 to $3.00.
To know which advertisement recommended the app and should get the credit, the newly installed app does a “lookback” immediately after it is opened for the first time to see from where the last click was originated and attribute the installation accordingly.
However, Kochava found that Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech apps are misusing user permissions to track when users download new apps and are apparently exploiting this data to hijack app-install bounties for even apps installed from other referrals, according to Buzzfeed News.
“This is theft — no other way to say it,” Grant Simmons, the head of client analytics for Kochava, told the publication. “These are real companies doing it — at scale — not some random person in their basement.”
images from Hacker News