Fake antivirus app pulled from Play Store, Google issues refund and an apology

by: Jonathan FeistApril 22, 2014
Fake Antivirus App Virus Shield Play Store Policy

In a bit of a surprise move by Google, users that were fooled by a fake antivirus app in the Google Play Store are not only getting their money back, but Google is giving them an additional $5 credit to play with. The app was called Virus Shield and sold for $3.99 to about 10,000 users before it was pulled from the Play Store.

Virus Shield managed to sneak its way past all the checks and make it to the top of a couple Play Store ‘Top’ categories. Android Police caught on and had much to say about it, and the app was removed from the Play Store on April 6th.

The fake antivirus app claimed to prevent harmful apps from being installed on your device, scan apps, settings and more in real time and protect your personal information. However, as it turns out, Virus Shield performed one role for users – click the emblem and the image changes. That is it. In fact, we shall re-create its entire functionality for you in non-clickable .gif format below, for free.

Fake Antivirus App Virus Shield

Within an email that is firing out to those that purchased the app, Google states that Virus Shield violates Play Store policy by making false claims, which is why they are issuing refunds of the purchase amount. Hopefully Google will not be stuck footing any of this bill, that they can still simply withhold funds, or straight out charge the developer, Deviant Solutions for the refunds. Checkout the full email here.

As for that $5 Play Store credit, Google is certainly making amends to users for allowing such an app to go unchecked for so long within the Play Store. We applaud Google’s actions and how they have taken ownership of righting any wrongs. We know that Google has tools in place to weed out bad apps, like Virus Shield, from the Play Store. We only hope that Google will incorporate all they have learned from this situation to help prevent similar from happening again.

What do you think, in addition to the well deserved returned purchase price, should Google be issuing the additional $5 Play Store credit to those that purchased Virus Shield? Or should Google take more of a ‘buyer beware’ approach to Play Store purchases?

  • Abhijeet Mishra

    Not sure the credit is worth anything in most markets, but still a good move. It’s still annoying that Google (and even Microsoft) don’t personally test apps like Apple does. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would go a long way towards stopping such happenings.

    • Jonathan Feist

      I agree that it would improve the quality of the experience, but, for the sake of discussion, isn’t Android supposed to be open, wouldn’t locking down the Play Store take away from some of the benefits of Android?

      • Aniruddh

        Android is often blamed for bad-quality apps. Personally testing apps could help improve the rep.

        • Jonathan Feist

          Improving the reputation of Android is good, but who is to say an app is bad? Certainly, the app in this story is falsely claiming its abilities and deserves to be banned. But let’s say the exact same app went live and it advertised itself properly, should the developer be denied the opportunity to share his work because it isn’t as much fun or functional as a tester would like? I mean, switching between two set images is pretty useless, but is that enough to reject an app?

          • Aniruddh

            If the app works as advertised, why would it be rejected?
            This is not just about repo too – there really shouldn’t be malware or fakes (especially paid ones) on the official market for apps.

          • Bryan Z

            That’s why there must be more rigid guidelines that app developers need to go over before submitting an app to the Play Store, as an Internet Entrepreneur and Marketer there are SOO many way to exploit that lack of security in the Play Store at this moments it’s been like that for many years. Searching for an app there is like searching for a certain keyword on Google you get hundreds of results making it difficult for real developers that want to provide real value. But is it too late for the Play Store? it takes around a month to get your iOS app approved and only about 2 days for the Play Store.

      • Abhijeet Mishra

        It wouldn’t actually. Android itself is open, but Google has shown that it has no intentions to open source apps or services it develops itself, like the new phone app on stock Android, so the Play Store could get the same treatment considering access to it is part of the license manufacturers have to get from Google. Of course, checking apps would be more about developers, but just checking apps for malware and whether they aren’t fooling people wouldn’t exactly go against the concept of open.

        • Jonathan Feist

          Thank you Abhijeet, I like your perspective. Google really is locking things down, I especially think of the External SD card situation… Anyhow, as long as Google does not take away side-loading, we should be ok.

          • Abhijeet Mishra

            Yeah. While some of the lockdowns will help keep things less fragmented, some of it really is troubling end-users. Guess we’ll see what the future holds at its own pace.

  • Jim DroidFan

    Google should be more careful so as to stop such apps from fooling more people. http://www.bloggitech.com/smartphones/sony/sony-xperia-z3/

  • jack

    Android was made in a hurry to catch iOS so it lacks basic security features allowing these terrible experiences to happen very often.

    • deV14nt

      This isn’t about a “basic security feature.” The app doesn’t actually do anything bad. It’s about false and misleading claims, a violation of Google’s ToS for developers. Again, this says little about their ability to detect malicious apps.

  • MasterMuffin

    You’re supporting piratism!!! Your gif is the same as the app!!11!!1!

    • Jonathan Feist

      Hey! You can’t click on my version, so it’s technically just a bad knock-off. At least it’s free.

      • MasterMuffin

        One ★ only!

        • Jonathan Feist

          Just you wait, my version 2.0 will have ads. And v2.4 will get in-app payments to remove ads and unlock different color themes. Just $4.99 each color, collect all 12!

          • MasterMuffin

            I like this kind of development. Developer has goals and keeps adding features!

          • Guest

            I’ll buy 20.

  • Yves

    I hate Android for thos.Apple make more contrôle on AppStore .