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Ad Fraud by Browser: 28% of Chrome Inventory is Fraudulent

According to W3Counter, Google Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer are the three most popular browsers among internet users today. Combined, these three browsers command over 85% of browser share in the U.S.

But each browser — along with other popular browsers such as Firefox and Opera — is susceptible to ad fraud in its own way. This cross-device study examines Q1 2017 ad fraud rates by browser and offers explanations as to why some of the most popular browsers had drastically different ad fraud rates.

28% of programmatic ads on Chrome — the most popular browser — are fraudulent

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  • Google Chrome — easily the most popular browser — had an ad fraud rate of 28% in Q1 2017.
  • Internet Explorer — one of the other three most popular browsers in the U.S. today — had an ad fraud rate of 42%, most of all major browsers.
  • Safari, the third of the “big three” browsers, had a significantly lower programmatic ad fraud rate, at 10%.
  • Firefox (37%) had the second-highest ad fraud rate of the five biggest browsers.
  • Opera’s ad fraud rate of 28% was equivalent to Chrome’s.

Mobile: Safari has lowest mobile ad fraud rate at 9.2%

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We see some similar trends in the mobile space with regards to ad fraud by browser type.

  • Chrome’s mobile-only ad fraud rate is much higher, at 37.6%.
  • Safari's (9.2%) mobile-only ad fraud rate is significantly lower than all of the other major browsers.
  • Safari, Firefox (39%), and Opera (23%) all have similar mobile-only ad fraud rates compared to desktop ad fraud rates.
  • Internet Explorer has a lower mobile-only ad fraud rate, at 36%, but it’s still among the most susceptible browsers to fraudulent activity in the mobile space.

Why might Google Chrome’s ad fraud rate be 3-4x higher than Safari’s?

Safari is primarily on Mac devices, which are generally less susceptible to malware and adware. Safari also blocks third-party cookies by default, which could reduce CPMs because it inherently offers less targeting from a marketer's perspective. This could create a ripple effect that ultimately disincentivizes fraudsters from stealing on Safari.

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Unsecure web pages are often targeted by fraudsters — and sometimes, the fraudsters carry out their attacks via a specific browser. Given that Chrome is used by close to two-in-three (61%) of internet users, it’s often the browser of choice for fraudsters. For example, earlier this year, Fox News reported on a malware script that targeted unsecure web pages. The attack was carried out via Chrome and targeted users in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada.

Additionally, Google Chrome is home to a plethora browser extensions. These extensions are often useful tools that enhance the user’s experience with Chrome, but it also opens up the door for ad fraudsters to use extensions for their own gain.

This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting Pixalate's Quarterly Global Ad Fraud Benchmarks for Q1 2017. Sign up for our blog to learn more.

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