A recent study analyzing 384,000 free mobile apps found that nearly 20,000 of these apps use aggressive or malicious ad networks putting users of these apps at risk of their contacts being copied or phone settings being changed without their knowledge or consent.
Websites and mobile applications often earn revenue selling ad space to advertising networks that place ads from their many advertising clients paying the website or app owner per advertisement impression or click. In the mobile channel there have been issues with aggressive advertising networks promoting ads that may change phone or browser settings, or even copy the user’s contacts. These aggressive ad networks allow advertisers to disguise an advertisement as a text message, phone notification or even an app icon. These advertisers and networks are not only aggressive, but they can also be malicious sending advertisements that may try to change mobile browser settings, change device settings or even scrape and upload the user’s contacts so the ad network can sell this information.
According to Lookout, a mobile security company, up to 5 percent of free mobile apps use an aggressive or malicious ad network. This comes from their study testing 384,000 finding 19,200 to be aggressive or malicious. These near 20,000 apps with aggressive ad networks have been collectively downloaded 80 million times. The aggressive ad networks tend to generate more revenue for the app developer, but this can come at the expense of driving away users.
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