AT&T Sees Red Over Verizon’s Map Slap

AT&T Wireless has filed suit against Verizon over the latter’s latest ad campaign.

That campaign, which claims Verizon has five times more U.S. 3G wireless network coverage than AT&T, shows two maps of the United States side by side, one with each company’s coverage.

The map purporting to show AT&T’s 3G coverage has large areas of white space, implying a lack of overall coverage in those areas, AT&T said. The ad is misleading, the plaintiff claims, and it seeks a temporary restraining order against Verizon — for starters.

About Verizon’s Ad

Verizon launched its advertising campaign on TV, in print and online last month. The ad on the Verizon Wireless site has a banner proclaiming it has “America’s Largest 3G Network.”

It goes on to say: “Want five times more 3G coverage than AT&T? There’s a map for that.” The last sentence is a swipe at AT&T’s flagship phone, the Apple iPhone, which has been running ads with the tagline “There’s an app for that.”

Verizon qualifies the 3G coverage maps with a footnote stating that the comparison is based on square miles covered with 3G voice, and it says voice and data services may be available outside the 3G coverage area.

That qualification did not save it from AT&T’s wrath. “The vast swathes of white space they show in the map of our coverage are deceiving in our view because they imply that there’s no coverage, period,” AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel said. “We did some consumer research and found that people thought AT&T had no coverage there.”

By convention, network coverage maps from all carriers show white space in areas where they have no coverage, Siegel told the E-Commerce Times. Just because an area has no 3G coverage does not necessarily mean it has no access to other cellular networks from the same provider.

Verizon did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

See You in Court

AT&T has filed suit over the ad in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta division. The suit is against Cellco Partnership, the company operating under the name “Verizon Wireless” in a “doing business as”, or “d/b/a,” capacity.

“Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless is currently running misleading advertisements concerning AT&T Mobility LLC’s wireless services,” begins the preliminary statement filed by AT&T’s lawyers.

Verizon launched a misleading advertising campaign in October, modified it slightly after AT&T protested, but nonetheless continued with the misleading campaign, according to the complaint.

AT&T provides 2G service in areas where it lacks 3G, and it continues to improve its 3G network, spokesperson Siegel pointed out. It will have invested more than US$17 billion this year to continue to improve and upgrade its wireless and wireline broadband networks, he said. “We continue to deploy 850 MHz spectrum throughout our 3G spectrum, and that improves coverage, especially in-building coverage,” Siegel added.

Also, AT&T is rolling out an HSPA 7.2 network, which will theoretically double downlink speeds on its 3G network to 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps), Siegel said. It is also rolling out its 4G LTE network. HSPA stands for High Speed Packet Access; it consists of HSPDA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access). AT&T is leveraging HSPDA.

AT&T is seeking narrow, tailored relief from the courts. “AT&T does not seek to stop Verizon from running its advertisements, nor does it seek to change the words Verizon uses in the advertisements,” its suit says. Instead, it is first seeking a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraint barring Verizon from displaying a map of AT&T’s 3G coverage where areas without 3G service are depicted by white or blank spaces.

AT&T is also seeking a permanent injunction and damages.

How Much More Coverage Again?

AT&T has no quarrel with Verizon’s claim of having five times as much the 3G coverage area as it has. “We don’t dispute Verizon’s claim about its 3G coverage; the lawsuit’s about the use of white space,” Siegel said.

However, Verizon’s calculations are based on geographical area covered, he pointed out. “They recently completed the purchase of Alltel, which covers huge areas in the Midwest and the far West,” Siegel said.

Verizon announced plans to buy Alltel for about $5.9 billion in June of 2008. This increased both its coverage area and customer head count — Alltel had more than 13 million customers in markets in 34 states, primarily 57 rural markets Verizon did not serve at the time.

Verizon may have to rework its claims, as it isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples, according to Douglas Chua, a research manager at IDC. “Verizon tends to quote coverage in terms of the population served or square mileage,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “AT&T, on the other hand, quotes coverage in terms of cities.”

However, the extent of coverage is not as important as its quality, Chua said. “Ultimately, it’s not just where the coverage is, but how good the quality of the connection is where coverage is available,” he explained.

There’s also the question of just what Verizon is comparing in its ads. “Is Verizon comparing EV-DO Rev 0 plus EV-DO Rev A — though I think all the Rev 0 has been upgraded to Rev A — with AT&T’s HSDPA?” he asked. “Is it using only a particular variant of AT&T’s HSDPA as a basis for comparison?”

There are several versions of HSDPA. These support downlink speeds of 1.8 Mbps; 3.6 Mbps; 7.2 Mbps; and 14 Mbps.

The Doors of Perception

AT&T is agitated over the Verizon ads because it could lose big money this holiday season from customers convinced its network is weak.

As a result, AT&T is “losing incalculable market share, invaluable goodwill that it has spent billions of dollars to develop among consumers, and the significant investment it has made in its wireless network,” its lawsuit claims.

“The fourth quarter of any year is the most vigorous and important marketing season for the wireless industry, and damage to competition during the fourth quarter is particularly harmful to the public’s interest in fair competition,” the suit adds.

“AT&T filed suit not because they were losing the war on facts, but because they were losing the war in terms of consumer perception,” Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “When I see a lawsuit like this, I think, ‘There’s a trap for that — and Verizon fell into it.'”

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How To Tackle Mobile Ad Fraud Before It Destroys Your Brand

Mobile ad spending in 2021 set a record by reaching $295 billion globally, a 23% increase from 2020. This trend will continue in 2022 — with the figure projected to reach $350 billion by the end of this year. The reason? We’re spending more time on our mobile phones. In fact, the average person now spends four to five hours per day on their phones. As of last month, in the U.S. roughly 53% of web visits originated from mobile devices.

The spotlight on mobile shopping has reshaped several industries; e-commerce, in particular. App store spending in 2021 reached a new high of $170 billion, an 18% increase from the previous year. This statistic shows that most consumers prefer to download an app and shop from the comfort of their own homes as opposed to going to a brick-and-mortar store.

Unfortunately, the surge in mobile ad spending in addition to device usage has led to a wave of criminal activity called mobile ad fraud. According to AppsFlyer, in 2019 over $4.8 billion of businesses’ mobile ad spend was exposed to ad fraud — an increasingly common issue affecting e-commerce companies across multiple industries, especially retail.

Let’s talk about exactly what mobile ad fraud is, the various types of mobile ad fraud to look out for, and three ways you can help prevent mobile ad fraud from taking place at your online storefront.

What Is Mobile Ad Fraud?

Mobile ad fraud is any practice that involves defrauding digital advertisers on mobile by using false impressions or fake app installs for financial gain or competitive advantage.

Fraudsters utilize a variety of methods to skim money off several types of mobile ads. Some of these include the use of bots, click injections, click spamming, and spoofing SDKs.

With these techniques, bad actors can use false data to feed off advertisers’ ad spend and sometimes go undetected for a long time.

There Are Multiple Types of Mobile Ad Fraud

When it comes to mobile ad fraud, we can categorize the various types into two main categories: mobile ad fraud via app installation, and mobile ad fraud via user interaction on mobile devices:

Mobile ad fraud via app installation

SDK spoofing, also known as SDK hacking, involves simulating real installs, clicks, and other impressions of an app to the attribution provider. With this technique, fraudsters can create thousands or even millions of fake installs that’ll consume the advertiser’s ad budget.

Click spamming involves fraudsters sending large volumes of fake or low-quality clicks to a mobile measurement partner (MMP) or attribution tool, waiting for an organic install to happen. Once a user installs the app, the attribution meant for the advertiser goes instead to the fraudster.

Mobile ad fraud via user interaction on mobile devices

Pixel stuffing occurs when publishers place an ad in a 1×1 pixel area that is invisible to the naked eye. Although these ads are invisible to the user, they still count as an impression.

Click hijacking occurs when bad actors redirect the click meant for an ad to another ad. By intercepting the communication between the user and the ad, they can steal or hijack the clicks on ads and transfer it to another ad.

3 Ways To Prevent Mobile Ad Fraud

The various forms of ad fraud make it difficult to protect against losing money to bad actors. However, learning how to prevent it offers a fighting chance and helps with early detection.

Maintain an IP blacklist
Certain IP addresses have a reputation of ad fraud due to their invalid clicks and fake traffic sources. Therefore, keep a blacklist of IP addresses you don’t want to interact with your ads. Also, compare your list with newly updated blacklists regularly.

Use an ads.txt file
In cases of domain spoofing, and other forms of imitation, an ads.txt file comes in handy. This file serves as an agreement between you, the SSP, DSP or ad exchange about who has the authority to resell your ads.

Work with verified publishers
Placing your ads on a verified publisher’s website is expensive. But they are more likely to offer your ads some safety and a guarantee from fraudsters, which is more than you’ll receive from a low-budget publisher. Also, you can rest assured the data you’re getting from a verified publisher isn’t skewed.

Implications of Mobile Ad Fraud on Businesses

Mobile ad fraud leading to revenue loss is only part of the story. Great damage can be done to a brand’s reputation by being placed on a blacklist.

When purchasing ad inventory, businesses investigate past and existing records of vendors. They do this to ensure viewability, ROI and safety. An ad campaign that’s explicit or that features unsafe content isn’t something with which your business wants to be associated. Should your company get blacklisted due to reports of inappropriate advertisements, your brand image and reputation could be at stake.

Often, you won’t see the immediate effect of ad fraud — that is, until the damage has already been done. By that point, you may have lost money, and your e-commerce establishment will find it challenging to stay afloat. Or, in the case of being blacklisted, your brand’s reputation may be damaged, taking years to repair. By then, of course, it’s too late.

Publishers and advertisers need to be aware that mobile ad fraud is a substantial threat to the industry. It’s especially vital to keep it in mind as consumers shop more often via smartphones. The earlier both parties work together to help end mobile ad fraud, the better.

Remember, the best defense against mobile ad fraud is to employ preventative measures to protect your business.

Jacob Loveless is CEO of Edgemesh. He has a 20-year career in making things go faster, from low latency trading for Wall Street to large-scale web platforms for the Department of Defense, and is a two-time winner of high-performance computing awards. Today, Loveless runs Edgemesh, the global web acceleration company he co-founded in 2016.

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Appdome CEO on Mobile App Security: No Developer, No Code, No Problem

No-code platforms are a key tool for organizations to better secure their own mobile apps.

Mobile software is frighteningly insecure, warns Tom Tovar, CEO and co-creator of Appdome. This is not a tenable situation for mobile app publishers.

The company’s no-code software removes the costly and time-consuming in-house process of building in security and fraud protection. It provides a valid alternative to development organizations hiring outside programmers.

The power of no-code lies in its ability to shift roles from professional programmers to IT workers who can build an app or website. Such tools make it possible for IT to balance convenience and speed with the cost considerations entailed with outsourcing coding projects.

No-code technology enables non-developer users from different business teams such as HR, finance, and procurement to build custom apps without having to write a single line of code. IT workers and others within an organization can build their product by dragging and dropping components and making use of existing app templates.

That scenario is where Appdome comes into play. The company’s technology can be a game-changer for mobile app developers and publishers looking for a hands-on approach to secure Android and iOS mobile apps.

Most development organizations adopting DevOps already have highly automated processes in place. The only way to secure apps without delaying the release and increasing budgets is by automating that process too.

“It is simply too complex, cumbersome, and expensive to do so manually,” Tovar said.

Pivot to No-Code

Founded in 2012 as a mobile software security firm, Tovar joined the company four years later as CEO and co-creator of the Appdome platform. The company has offices in Redwood City, Calif., and Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Appdome is the heart of the company’s mobile app security solution, noted Tovar, who nudged the company towards a no-code solution for mobile app security and fraud prevention.

“The patented Appdome no-code platform employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to build security features into a mobile app binary. This provides all kinds of protections, including man-in-the-middle prevention, data encryption, code obfuscation, jailbreak and rooting prevention, fraud prevention, and more,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Consumers Bemoan Lacking Security

Prominent on Appdome’s website is the “CISOs Meeting Consumer Expectations of Mobile App Security in 2021” report that covers responses from 10,000 mobile consumers in different countries and demographic audiences. It shows clearly that mobile consumers no long will settle for “security awareness,” assertions.

Consumers today have high expectations of security and malware prevention in every Android and iOS app. App makers who fail to comply risk churn and cancel culture in their mobile business.

Consumer expectations of mobile app security

Source: Appdome

Appdome sees its mission as protecting the mobile economy and mobile app users. The security firm does this with a no-code mobile security and fraud prevention platform. It puts the global mobile transformation and DevSecOps adoption in mobile development pipelines.

A large majority (73 percent) of all consumers would stop using a mobile app if it left them unprotected against attack, and 63 percent say security is as important or more important to them than (app) features, Tovar said of the survey’s results.

“Consumers expect that every app is to be secured equally, another major finding from the global mobile consumer survey,” he observed.

Insider’s View About Mobile Security

During our conversation I spoke further with Tovar about no-code technology, and the state of mobile app security and fraud prevention.

TechNewsWorld: How is No-code technology changing the way enterprises develop and use apps?

Tom Tovar: No-code technology is making it much easier for mobile app developers to create secure apps. Most security implementation is still a highly manual process, and skilled security specialists are in high demand and hard to recruit.

It is even more difficult in the mobile app world because iOS and Android require significantly different approaches. A large number of development frameworks from which to choose exist. It is a very complex situation.

How does that impact the development of mobile apps?

Tovar: Security implementations can dramatically slow the delivery of the mobile app. In turn, this can significantly hurt revenue in such a highly competitive space, as well as increase costs.

What are typical use cases for no-code technology in mobile app security and fraud prevention?

Tovar: There are many! Banking apps, for instance, are notoriously insecure, even though they tap into a bank’s most sensitive back-end systems and provide access to customer accounts.

Appdome CEO, Tom Tovar
Appdome CEO Tom Tovar

For example, a white-hat hacker who recently probed the security of 30 apps from a variety of large global financial institutions found that 99 percent of the mobile apps that researchers reverse-engineered contained hardcoded API keys and tokens such as usernames and passwords to third-party services.

Are banking apps an isolated example?

Tovar: No, Fintech relies heavily on mobile apps to deliver its services, and they absolutely must be secure. Health and wellness apps may not seem like they contain valuable information, but they do.

In fact, health records are far more valuable than credit cards on the black market because they contain personally identifying information useful for stealing identities and perpetrating fraud.

Why is Appdome’s software a benefit to DevOps and enterprise IT automation?

Tovar: Shift left in security — finding and preventing defects early in the software delivery process — is a key trend in 2022. Many of the CISOs and VPs of mobile engineering I talk to are looking to implement security earlier in the development cycle.

Our software automates the implementation of security and is fully compatible with the way developers build their apps today. DevOps teams can use the Appdome API to seamlessly integrate the process of building security features with existing build systems and CI/CD pipelines.

This allows DevOps teams to deliver true system-to-system reliability and scale for both their consumer as well as employee mobile apps.

What are the biggest challenges mobile app users face today, and how is Appdome addressing these issues?

Tovar: Consumers are not happy with the “buyer beware” state of mobile app security. They expect publishers to protect them. In fact, more than two-thirds (68 percent) said that publishers have an even higher duty to do so during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, unless a big breach gets big play in the press, there is really no way for consumers to differentiate between secure and insecure apps. So, they are stuck unless publishers find a way to consistently, quickly, and affordably ensure their apps are secure. Appdome provides the means to accomplish these goals.

How does Appdome’s software technology work?

Tovar: Appdome is a security build system that uses patented machine coding to build security features into Android and iOS applications. App makers do not need to make any changes to their mobile apps to build a secure version on Appdome.

The creation software requires no source code, no development experience, and no user data to operate. It also requires no modifications to the mobile applications, no SDKs (software development kits), or manual coding. As a machine, it can complete mobile application security projects with ease, usually in a few seconds.

Securing mobile apps is a simple three-step process. One, upload a mobile app binary (APK or AAB for Android, and IPA or bitcode for iOS) to the platform. Two, select the security features needed to complete the project. Three, click on the Build my App button.

Developers have the choice of using the Appdome console to do this work or build the desired security features to their mobile app using an API. They can incorporate Appdome into their existing DevOps processes with a few lines of code that will connect to our platform and secure the app.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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