The Fraudster's Toolkit For Targeting Mobile Apps

Committing mobile app fraud has never been easier. If you thought it takes advanced software systems and a computer science degree to crack an app, think again. With just a few simple tools and techniques, attacks can be carried out at high speed and scale. Today, fraud has become accessible for regular users and child’s play for experienced criminals.

One thing is for certain. Businesses need to be able to detect these tools and techniques before any damage is done. Here’s the exposé on the fraudster’s toolkit:

1. Emulators

Although they are usually associated with app testing and installing retro games on a PC, emulators are in fact one of the most popular weapons in a fraudster’s arsenal. What makes them a favourite is their efficiency. Given that they are entirely virtual, fraudsters will run automated scripts on an emulated device to run many device simulations at the same time. To make matters worse, emulators themselves can be used to avoid detection. Each time a fraudster creates a new virtual simulation of a device on their desktop, the device fingerprint changes, allowing them to evade most defences.

2. App cloners

App cloners are a must-have in any fraud toolkit. Easy to install, they are also very versatile, with fraudulent payments and promo abuse amongst the most common of their many use cases. To this end app cloners are used to run several instances of the same app simultaneously and make transactions between various fake accounts to exploit reward points and performance incentives. All fraudsters need is a single device.

3. App tampering

App tampering is as malicious as it sounds. Modifying an app’s source code allows bad actors to change its behavior in order to bypass controls, infiltrate backend servers, and steal user data. What’s worse, fraudsters have also been known to upload tampered apps to the app store, which often contain malware designed to infect a device.

4. GPS spoofers

Is your taxi taking too long to arrive? Chances are, the driver could be using a GPS spoofer. By tricking the system into making them appear somewhere they’re not, ride-hailing drivers can expand their range and pick up more customers. When this happens, passengers have to wait longer than expected for their ride, honest drivers are pushed to the back of the queue, and everyone except the fraudster suffers.

5. VPNs

Often associated with bypassing content restrictions to watch TV shows blocked by geo-restrictions, fraudsters have also been known to use VPNs to hide their tracks when conducting illegal activities such as money laundering. Although most businesses will block IP addresses that are known to be malicious, simple IP blacklists are no longer sufficient when these addresses are spoofed.

6. Jailbreaking / Rooting

Jailbreaking or rooting a device is common amongst people who want to be able to hyper-customize their devices. Unfortunately, bad actors can use these devices as a gateway to fraud. With a compromised operating system, fraudsters can easily run unauthorized software to conduct fraud attacks. Though jailbroken devices are not necessarily an indicator of malicious intent, the likelihood of the device becoming malicious increases when stacked with other tools.

7. Screen sharing

Screen sharing is one of the newer, shinier tools in a fraudster’s arsenal. Often used as part of a social engineering scam, fraudsters will ask their victims to share their screens for verification or troubleshooting purposes. This allows them to watch their screens as they type in their credentials, so they can log in at a later date to steal funds or data.

Protect Your Users From Malicious Tools and Techniques

These tools and techniques are cheap, powerful and easy to use - the perfect formula for attacking mobile apps. With mobile app fraud on the rise, it is crucial that you know when malicious tools and techniques are being used on your platform in order to stop fraud and create a safe environment for your good users.