This Android Malware Placebo Earned $40,000

Justin Pot 09-04-2014

Malware protection for $4, with no battery impact and no ongoing subscription fee – all offered in app that takes up less than one megabyte of space on your phone.


It sounds too good to be true. It is.

But that’s what Virus Shield, briefly among the top-rated paid apps on Google Play, promised would-be buyers. What it actually did: display a nice little shield, which you could tap to “turn on” your protection.


Nothing happened when you turned it on, except for the occasional popup telling you about a completed scan – one that never happened.

You can read the source code for the app on Android Police. You’ll find references to displaying buttons and pop-ups, but nothing related to any actual protection.


It was a placebo antivirus, and people apparently liked it. The app sold over 10,000 copies in just over a week, and sported a four-plus star rating. People wrote reviews, like this:


You can read the reviews, and see sales figures, on AppBrain. These reviews may be faked, or may be written by people who sincerely thought they were being protected.

Whatever the case, the lesson is clear: caveat emptor. Google Play is scanned for malware, but no humans check the code to make sure a given app is effective – and reviews can be gamed easily enough. Check an outside source before installing anything related to security.

Concerned about Android malware? Learn the signs of an infected Android Has Your Android Phone Been Infected with Malware? How does malware get on an Android device? After all, most users only install apps through the Play Store, and Google keeps a tight watch over that to make sure malware doesn't squeeze through, right?... Read More , and avoid downloading apps from shady pirate sites Cracked Android Apps and Games: Read This Before Downloading The statistics don't lie: Most Android malware comes from outside Google Play. Downloading cracked apps -- or any type of app -- from a shady website or untrustworthy third-party app store is the way most... Read More .

In this case, the app was installed over 10,000 times, meaning the developer “earned” $40,000 in just over a week. It’s since been taken down.


Source: Android Police via TLDR

Related topics: Google Play, Scams, Smartphone Security.

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  1. Làvìtôinh?em T
    April 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I hate virus

  2. Paul W
    April 9, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    They don't get the money immediately. Google collects all of the money and they pay out to developers on the 15th of each month for the previous month's income. If Google suspended the account, they won't be seeing any of that money. I would hope they are going to refund everyone their money too.

  3. Paul in NJ
    April 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Complete this famous quote: "A ____ and his ___ soon are parted."

    • Risket
      April 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      "A monkey and his helicopter soon are parted."

    • Justin P
      April 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      Pretty sure that was it, yeah.

  4. Jo-anne P
    April 9, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    I wish I could say that I would not have fallen for this but I can't. Happily I didn't see it but the sad thing is when they want money for something one just assumes that it is legitimate. Hey, I never said I was the brightest colour in the crayon box. I am more of the pale grey hehe. Thanks for the post and since following makeuseof I consider myself in the know and I come here for all things well everything just to check.