How to Detect Fraudulent Location in Mobile apps

Last updated May 5, 2024 by Appdome

Learn to Detect Fraudulent Location in Mobile apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

Why Detect Fraudulent Location in Mobile Apps?

Detecting fraudulent locations in mobile apps is crucial for several compelling reasons, each tied to the integrity, utility, and security of mobile services:

1. Integrity of Location-Based Services: Many apps rely on accurate location data to provide services that are relevant to the user’s current geographical position. These could range from navigation and weather apps to social networking and dating apps that tailor content based on where the user is. If the location data is spoofed, it undermines the core functionality of these services, leading to a degraded user experience.

2. Security and Fraud Prevention: Fraudulent location data can be used to bypass geo-restrictions for content or services, to falsify activities in games, or to exploit location-based pricing strategies. It can also be a tool for stalking or other malicious activities. Detecting and preventing location spoofing helps maintain the security of the app and protects users from potential abuse.

3. Trust and Compliance: Users trust apps with their location data, assuming that this information will enhance the service they receive. If an app is easily manipulated through location spoofing, this trust is eroded, which can damage the app’s reputation and user base. Furthermore, compliance with legal and regulatory standards in many jurisdictions requires that apps handle location data accurately and securely.

4. Prevention of Unauthorized Access: Certain apps, especially those offering financial services or sensitive information, use location data as part of their authentication and access control mechanisms. Spoofed locations can lead to unauthorized access to these services, posing significant risks to both the service provider and the users.

In summary, detecting fraudulent location data is essential for protecting your platform and users from the risks of location fraud and ensuring that location-based actions, transactions, and interactions are based on the user’s true whereabouts.

How does Appdome Detect Fraudulent Location in Mobile Apps?

Appdome detects fraudulent locations in mobile apps by analyzing a range of signals to ensure the location provided by the OS is based on the user’s actual whereabouts. Here’s how Appdome’s specific features work together to safeguard location-based services against spoofing attempts:

1. Accelerometer and Location Mismatch: This method identifies inconsistencies between accelerometer data (which measures the device’s movement) and GPS location data. If the accelerometer indicates that the device is stationary but the GPS data shows the location changing, this discrepancy suggests that the location data may be spoofed.

2. Automatic Time Zone Off: (Only available for Android)—Since users can manually set their device’s time zone, Appdome checks for mismatches between the device’s set time zone and its reported location. A mismatch could indicate an attempt to manipulate the location data, making this feature critical in identifying location spoofing attempts on Android devices.

3. Time Zone and Location Mismatch: Expanding on the time zone analysis, this feature uses geocoding—a process that converts physical addresses into geographical coordinates—to verify the consistency between the device’s GPS data or country ISO code and its time zone.

Warning! The Time Zone and Location Mismatch feature provides no guarantees of accuracy. Results are based on estimation and may not always be accurate.

4. Geo-code to GPS mismatch: Network mismatches are a strong indicator of potential location spoofing attempts, where fraudsters manipulate their GPS coordinates to gain unauthorized access to services, promotions, or content intended for a different region. Geo-code to GPS mismatch combats this issue by comparing GPS-based location with the location information derived from the currently registered cellular operator or nearby cell towers.

Warning! As per Android guidelines, OS Geocoding services provide no guarantees of availability or accuracy. Results are a best guess and are not guaranteed to be meaningful or correct. Do NOT use this API for any safety-critical or regulatory compliance purposes.

Together, these features form a robust framework for detecting and preventing location spoofing in mobile apps. By leveraging data from the device’s accelerometer, analyzing time zone settings, and employing geocoding techniques, Appdome provides a comprehensive solution to ensure that location-based services operate on accurate and reliable location data, thereby protecting the app’s integrity and its users’ trust.

Prerequisites for Using Detect Fraudulent Location:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Detect Fraudulent Location , you’ll need:

Detect Fraudulent Location on Mobile apps using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Mobile Apps that Detect Fraudulent Location without an SDK or gateway:

  1. Upload the Mobile App to Appdome.

    1. Upload an app to Appdome’s Mobile App Security Build System

    2. Upload Method: Appdome Console or DEV-API
    3. Mobile App Formats: .ipa for iOS, or .apk or .aab for Android
    4. Detect Fraudulent Location Compatible With: Obj-C, C+, Java, JS, C#, C++, Swift, Kotlin, Flutter, React Native, Unity, Xamarin, and more
  2. Build the feature: Detect Fraudulent Location.

    1. Building Detect Fraudulent Location by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

      1. Create and name the Fusion Set (security template) that will contain the Detect Fraudulent Location feature as shown below:
      2. fusion set that contains Detect Fraudulent Location

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Detect Fraudulent Location feature
        Note: Naming the Fusion Set to correspond to the protection(s) selected is for illustration purposes only (not required).

      3. Follow the steps in Sections 2.2.1-2.2.2 of this article, Building the Detect Fraudulent Location feature via Appdome Console, to add the Detect Fraudulent Location feature to this Fusion Set.

      4. Open the Fusion Set Detail Summary by clicking the “...” symbol on the far-right corner of the Fusion Set, as shown in Figure 1 above, and get the Fusion Set ID from the Fusion Set Detail Summary (as shown below): fusion Set Detail Summary image

        Figure 2: Fusion Set Detail Summary
        Note: Annotating the Fusion Set to identify the protection(s) selected is optional only (not mandatory).

      5. Follow the instructions below to use the Fusion Set ID inside any standard mobile DevOps or CI/CD toolkit like Bitrise, App Center, Jenkins, Travis, Team City, Cirlce CI or other system:
        1. Build an API for the app – for instructions, see the tasks under Appdome API Reference Guide
        2. Look for sample APIs in Appdome’s GitHub Repository
    2. Building the Detect Fraudulent Location feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Detect Fraudulent Location protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Geo Compliance Tab > Geo Compliance section.
      2. When you select the Detect Fraudulent Location you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Detect Fraudulent Location

        Fusion Set applied Detect Fraudulent Location

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Detect Fraudulent Location protection

      3. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Detect Fraudulent Location:
        1. Threat-Events™ OFF > In-App Defense

          If the Threat-Events™ setting is cleared (not selected). Appdome will detect and defend the user and app by enforcing Detect Fraudulent Location.

        2. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Detection

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects fraudulent location present in the mobile device and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence to the app’s business logic for processing, enforcement, and user notification. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for Detect Fraudulent Location Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

        3. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Defense

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Fraudulent Location (same as Appdome Enforce) and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence the app’s business logic for processing. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for Detect Fraudulent Location Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

      4. Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
    Congratulations!  The Detect Fraudulent Location protection is now added to the mobile app

Using Threat-Events™ for Fraudulent Location Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps

Appdome Threat-Events™ provides consumable in-app mobile app attack intelligence and defense control when Fraudulent Location is detected. To consume and use Threat-Events™ for Fraudulent Location in Mobile Apps, use AddObserverForName in Notification Center, and the code samples for Threat-Events™ for Fraudulent Location shown below.

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Fraudulent Location are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Detect Fraudulent Location Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Detect Fraudulent Location
Threat-Event Mode
OFF, IN-APP DEFENSE Appdome detects, defends and notifies user (standard OS dialog) using customizable messaging.
ON, IN-APP DETECTION Appdome detects the attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (app chooses how and when to enforce).
ON, IN-APP DEFENSE Uses Appdome Enforce mode for any attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (gather intel on attacks and threats without losing any protection).
Certified Secure™ Threat Event Check
Visible in ThreatScope™
Developer Parameters for Detecting Fraudulent Location Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME FraudulentLocationDetected
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6801
Threat-Event SCORE
currentThreatEventScore Current Threat-Event score
threatEventsScore Total Threat-events score
Threat-Event Context Keys
message Message displayed for the user on event
externalID The external ID of the event which can be listened via Threat Events
osVersion OS version of the current device
deviceModel Current device model
deviceManufacturer The manufacturer of the current device
fusedAppToken The task ID of the Appdome fusion of the currently running app
kernelInfo Info about the kernel: system name, node name, release, version and machine.
carrierPlmn PLMN of the device
deviceID Current device ID
reasonCode Reason code of the occured event
buildDate Appdome fusion date of the current application
devicePlatform OS name of the current device
carrierName Carrier name of the current device
updatedOSVersion Is the OS version up to date
deviceBrand Brand of the device
deviceBoard Board of the device
buildUser Build user
buildHost Build host
sdkVersion Sdk version
timeZone Time zone
deviceFaceDown Is the device face down
locationLong Location longitude conditioned by location permission
locationLat Location latitude conditioned by location permission
locationState Location state conditioned by location permission
wifiSsid Wifi SSID
wifiSsidPermissionStatus Wifi SSID permission status

With Threat-Events™ enabled (turned ON), Mobile developers can get detailed attack intelligence and granular defense control in Mobile applications and create amazing user experiences for all mobile end users when Fraudulent Location is detected.

The following is a code sample for native Mobile apps, which uses all values in the specification above for Detect Fraudulent Location:


Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Mobile Apps by using Detect Fraudulent Location. There is no SDK and no library to code or implement in the app and no gateway to deploy in your network. All protections are built into each app and the resulting app is self-defending and self-protecting.

Releasing and Publishing Mobile Apps with Detect Fraudulent Location

After successfully securing your app by using Appdome, there are several available options to complete your project, depending on your app lifecycle or workflow. These include:

If you have any questions, please send them our way at support.appdome.com or via the chat window on the Appdome platform.

Thank you!

Thanks for visiting Appdome! Our mission is to secure every app on the planet by making mobile app security easy. We hope we’re living up to the mission with your project.

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