Squatterware continues to plague Android Marketplace

Wed, Dec 21, 2011

Analysis, News

Google and Apple have two diverging philosophies when it comes to their respective app stores. Whereas Google’s Android Market is a free for all with no vetting whatsoever, Apple’s iTunes App Store is carefully vetted to ensure that no malware or otherwise objectionable apps make their way past Apple’s censors.

Each approach, naturally, has its own advantages and disadvantages. Apple’s history of boneheaded app store rejections is well-documented. At the same time, iOS users don’t need to worry about malware-infected apps that download executable code from remote servers and steal all sorts of personal information. Android, meanwhile, lets every app under sun into its playhouse and the results can sometimes be detrimental.

Recently, we highlighted that Android malware is up 472% since July. But there’s another problem festering within the confines of the Android Market – scamware.

Sure, iTunes is fraught with scamware, but it’s to a much lesser degree than what one experiences on Android. To wit – and perhaps it’s been fixed since – but a few months ago I was using a friends Dell Tablet (don’t ask) and they asked for help downloading the Groupon app.

“Oh, that shouldn’t be a problem”, I explained.

Or so I thought.

Sifting through a never ending maze of squatter-ware, it ultimately proved impossible to download, or hell, even find, the official Groupon app.

In a similar vein, Electronista a few weeks back pointed out that a sleazy developer uploaded a series of crapware apps under the developr name “Rovio”, to purposefully mislead consumers looking for apps from Rovio Mobile, the purveyor of the immensely popular series of Angry Birds apps.

The developer was naturally taken to task for his crapware by consumers but refused to refund any monies.

Google’s Rito Meier acknowledged the issue and took action along with staff.¬†Electronista saw the developer’s titles being individually removed over the course of Monday afternoon, and as of 2PM Eastern had removed the fake Rovio entirely as a publisher. The company hadn’t entirely eliminated problems as a whole, however, as a company known as C Chase Apps has posted a fake¬†Tiny Wings that hasn’t been affected.

As the popularity of mobile games continues to skyrocket, along with the potential for profit, so too does the increase in scams unleashed upon the Android Market. While Google advises users to be on the lookout for scamware by paying attention to questionable descriptions and poor reviews, I for one feel that this type of onus on the user should be as painless as possible. It’s hard enough filtering out some of the crap apps from the worthwhile apps on iTunes, but when you throw purposefully misleading apps into the equation, well that’s just another layer of complexity that most consumers would rather not deal with.

Of course, Apple isn’t immune to this problem despite its gatekeeping ways. There have been a few instances where overtly copyrighted material has made its way into the iOS App Store – a counterfeit Nintendo Mario game easily comes to mind.

But at least Apple has a framework in place to fend off such attempts at swindling the end user. The Android Marketplace, in contrast, remains a wild west environment where anything goes and problems are dealt with after the fact as opposed to working to prevent them in the first place.

Just last week, Google removed yet another 22 Android apps from the Android Marketplace. The apps in question were free downloads meant to resemble popular apps such as Angry Birds. Once downloaded to a user’s device, premium SMS messages would be sent without a user’s consent or knowledge, costing them a lot of money in the process.

via Electronista


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