Android has developed a bit of a reputation for malware,
so it's not too surprising that people want to protect their
smartphones. Unfortunately, no one was watching the watchers, and the
number one paid app on the Play Store was nothing but fake anti-virus
This highlights one of the big problems with mobile app
stores, and while it's more obvious on Android, iOS isn't exempt from
the criticism - in March the team behind the official Tor Browser said
that a fake Tor Browser filled with adware and spyware was available on
the iTunes App Store for several months before being finally removed.
Shield, which is no longer available on the Play Store, launched about
one week ago, for $3.99 (approximately Rs. 240) and was the top paid
app. In the description, the app claimed to be preventing harmful apps
from being installed; scanning apps, settings, files and media, and
protecting your personal information. Add to that no advertisements, no
permissions, and low impact on battery life, and you have thousands of
users paying and downloading Virus Shield.
Except... the app
didn't do anything at all. Most experts say that anti-virus software
does nothing but provide the illusion of safety, and the Virus Shield
developers clearly took that to heart - users who
analysed the source code of the app learned that all it did was change
an icon to tell you that your phone was insecure, but is now protected!
The details are available on GitHub.
In a Google+ post, Chris DiBona,
Director of Open Source at Google had in 2011 written about his
scepticism of anti-virus software. He wrote:
No major cell phone
has a 'virus' problem in the traditional sense that windows and some mac
machines have seen. There have been some little things, but they
haven't gotten very far due to the user sandboxing models and the nature
of the underlying kernels.
No Linux desktop has a real virus problem.
Yes, virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you bs
protection software for Android, RIM and IOS. They are charlatans and
scammers. IF you work for a company selling virus protection for
android, rim or IOS you should be ashamed of yourself.
read a report from a vendor that trys [sic] to sell you something based
on protecting android, rim or ios [sic] from viruses they are also
likely as not to be scammers and charlatans.
The Virus Shield
developers played on thousands of users' fears - but it's hardly the
only app that's misrepresenting itself on a mobile app store. The
solution isn't in anti-viruses, but considering how tightly controlled
the app stores are, we should expect Apple and Google to not fall for
such obvious tricks at the very least.