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Microsoft Builds a Digital 'monkey' to Hunt Fraudulent Ads

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A 'digital' monkey.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Microsoft have developed a "digital monkey" to detect and counter fraudulent advertisements in mobile apps.

Credit: OS Universe

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Microsoft have developed technology, known as a digital monkey, that can detect and counter fraudulent advertisements on a large scale.

The program moves between millions of app screens to see whether designs violate an app store's terms of use. When the technology was deployed on 50,000 Windows Phone apps, it found more than 1,000 that had ad placements violating the terms of use.

The digital monkey systematically reviews apps in an app store, launches an app in an emulator, and then engages with that app and attempts to go through as much of it as it can. If the monkey is confronted with a button, it clicks on it. If it encounters a text box, it attempts to continue by determining what is being sought and entering some data, such as a zip code.

"The goal of the monkey is to go to as many pages in the app as possible," says Microsoft researcher Suman Nath. For example, Microsoft's monkey found a misleading ad in an app for playing mah-jongg, the Chinese tile game. The system found a vertical advertising bar on the right side of the screen that was filled with tiles that looked like the tiles used in the game itself.

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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