Oct 7, 2019
This research was conducted by Stan (Jiexin) Zhang, a research intern at Brave and a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Panagiotis Papadopoulos, Security Researcher at Brave, and Dr. Ben Livshits, Chief Scientist at Brave. We gratefully acknowledge the valuable feedback of Prof. Alastair R. Beresford of the University of Cambridge. Bots are automated programs that often mimic human behavior for monetary or criminal purposes. They have become a serious and pervasive problem for many industries, especially for the online advertising market. In 2013, it was discovered that the Chameleon botnet harvested around 6 million dollars per month from advertisers. The proliferation and the wide variety of mobile devices created opportunities for fraudsters to gain profit by abusing the ad ecosystem and exploiting low-cost mobile devices. In particular, recent news has reported that phone farmers have been using bots to automate phone clicks and touch movements to generate revenue from ad views.