What IsArtificially Inflated Traffic?

Artificially inflated traffic (AIT) is a fraudulent practice that takes place within the Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS path.

Bad actors artificially boost traffic to generate extra revenue for those who forward the message down the path. Fraudsters often use automated scripts, bots, or click farms to generate traffic in the form of fake clicks and impressions. This leads to inaccurate performance data and wasted advertising budgets.

Forms of Artificial Inflation

1. AIT Fraud

AIT fraud is when cyber attackers use bots to create fake traffic on websites and digital business applications. They trigger the mass sending of one-time password (OTP) SMS texts by using fake account creation bots. The large and repeated SMS traffic created through AIT fraud puts telecom operators at big losses and allows scammers to make huge profits.

2. SMS Toll Fraud

SMS toll fraud, also known as SMS pumping, happens when cybercriminals exploit phone network vulnerabilities to profit from fake texts. Mobile users receive these text messages and are charged premium rates without their knowledge. In other cases, fraudsters will use phishing scams to trick users into subscribing to premium services.

3. Bot Traffic

Bot traffic refers to any form of non-human traffic directed to any website or online platform. While bots often serve legitimate purposes, like search engine crawlers or chatbots, there are some malicious uses involved that inflate website or application traffic. They tamper with analytics and performance metrics to deceive advertisers and compromise the user experience. 

4. Click Farms

Click farms are organized groups of low-income individuals who get paid to manually and repetitively click on links, ads, and videos. This allows them to impersonate genuine user engagement, as they register to online businesses with legitimate accounts. As a result, they create inaccurate performance data.

Click farms trick advertisers by convincing them of artificially inflated amounts of genuine user traffic. The result is wasted money for the victims who believed they were paying for genuine engagement. 

How Does Artificial Inflation Affect the Telecom Industry?

1. Financial Losses

The biggest risk artificial inflation poses to the telecom industry is financial loss. Artificial inflation of traffic undermines the integrity of the billing system and revenue streams, posing a major financial risk.

These revenue losses come through SMS toll frauds and subscription scams, where users pay for premium-rate services they never signed up for. The telecom industry faces additional losses due to operational costs connected to the fraud. 

2. Reputation Damage

Besides the obvious financial losses, AIT can cause reputational damage to telecom operators. Repeated instances of fraud gradually lead to increased customer complaints and negative publicity, ultimately damaging customer trust and loyalty.

The bigger the reputational damage, the bigger the financial loss will be. Why? It impacts customer acquisition efforts and the operator’s ability to attract new business partners and subscribers. 

3. Security and Privacy Risks

AIT poses a privacy risk for both telecom operators and their subscribers. Fraudulent activities like SMS phishing and malware distribution can easily compromise user devices, expose their information, and result in identity theft or financial embezzlement. On the other hand, telecom operators risk confidentiality breaches, which threaten data security and regulatory compliance. 

4. Regulatory Challenges

AIT causes telecom operators to unknowingly break consumer protection laws, telecommunications regulations, and data privacy standards. These confidentiality breaches can subject operators to legal repercussions and regulatory fines for failing to prevent fraudulent activities and protect subscriber interests.

Regulatory authorities may also impose stricter oversight and enforcement measures to combat AIT. They may require operators to invest in compliance initiatives and regulatory reporting capabilities.

How to Prevent Artificially Inflated Traffic

1. Advanced Fraud Detection Systems

The first step in fighting AIT is investing in advanced fraud detection systems. These systems can identify suspicious patterns and anomalies in network traffic and user behavior. Through continuous monitoring, telecom operators can identify and block any suspicious activities and attempts in real time. 

2. Network Monitoring and Management

To pinpoint suspicious network traffic, irregular activity, and potential security threats, telecom operators must employ management practices. They should invest in robust monitoring tools to stop fraudulent activities before they even start. Network management strategies, like controlling traffic flow and detecting unusual behavior, can stop cyber attackers from getting unauthorized access.

3. Collaboration and Information Sharing

Collaboration and information sharing among telecom operators, industry stakeholders, and law enforcement agencies are key to AIT prevention. Partners can share threat intelligence and strategies through forums or networks to exchange threat intelligence and strategies about AIT. With these insights and experiences, operators can bolster their defenses and fraud detection capabilities. 

4. Consumer Education

Raising awareness about AIT risks and promoting security best practices is essential for preventing fraud and protecting subscriber interests. Telecom operators should proactively communicate with subscribers about common fraud schemes, like premium-rate scams or unauthorized charges. Consumers can avoid AIT-related fraud by learning to spot suspicious activities and keeping personal information safe.