Fake Android antivirus app was “a mistake”

April 23rd 2014

The cost of a non-functioning Android antivirus app will be refunded to the thousands of users who downloaded it. The developer of 'Virus Shield' has also said that it was a "foolish mistake", adding that "we never intended to scam our customers on Google Play".

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Together with Windows mobiles, Android has one of the highest rates of infection by malware of all mobile devices and Get Safe Online recommends that users of Android phones and tablets install a reputable internet security app.

Deviant Solutions uploaded the non-functioning app to Google Play on 28 March and it immediately shot into the store's paid charts, achieving third most popular title in the entire store, and the most popular new one. It sold for $3.99 and was downloaded more than 30,000 times between taken down on 6 April, says app store monitoring firm Appbrain. The app preview read that it searched the device for viruses whilst not affecting battery life. However, the only functionality was that the icon changed when pressed to indicate that it was active. It did not contain any code to detect or guard against viruses.

Jesse Carter, who heads up Deviant Solutions, told The Guardian "One of our developers simply made a foolish mistake. The app version that was decompiled by AndroidPolice was not intended to be released. It was an early placeholder that our ui designer created. There was a mix-up between the version that contained the antivirus code for our app." Carter added: "After reading the article created by AndroidPolice, we immediately unpublished our app from the marketplace to upload the intended version. However, our Google Play Developer account was suspended before we could make said amendments. We have not withdrawn any earnings received from Virus Shield and intend to refund all purchases. We may possibly upload the intended version of the app for free to everyone."

It is not clear whether the decision to withdraw the app was made by Carter or Google – whose developer terms say that that apps "must not contain false or misleading information in any content, title, icon, description, or screenshots." Google does not proactively review apps before they appear in its store, but has declined to comment on what action it will take over the app. It seems unlikely that the developer has received any funds from Google owing to the timing of the app's withdrawal and when developer payments are processed.

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