As we’ve noted before, there are definite downsides to Google’s policy of allowing all apps onto the Google Play store and only removing them after users flag them as malicious. The flaws in this approach were once again on display this past weekend when Android Police revealed that Android security app Virus Shield, which had just hit the No. 1 spot on Google’s new paid apps chart, was a complete scam.
Why is Virus Shield a scam, you ask? Mostly because it costs $3.99 and literally doesn’t do anything at all to protect your phone from viruses. According to Android Police, the app supposedly tells you whether your phone is secure by having a shield icon that contains either an “X” mark to signify that the device has been infected or a checkmark to signify the device is safe. When you first install the app, it has an “X” mark on the icon but it quickly changes to a checkmark once you tap it and tells you that everything is safe in your phone.
However, this is all the app really does — it gives you a false sense of security by showing you a checkmark and doesn’t contain any code for detecting and eliminating malware on your Android phone.
Amazingly, the app was downloaded more than 10,000 times and received an average rating of 4.7 stars on Google Play despite the fact that it swindled thousands of people out of their money. Google has since removed the app although there’s no word yet on whether the company will be able to refund the money that they gave to Virus Shield.
Android Police, which has generally been supportive of the open nature of Google Play, writes that “it’s somewhat disheartening that an app so obviously fake could rise to the top, especially considering that it’s paid, and possibly hundreds or thousands of people have been defrauded already.” The publication also writes that it doesn’t have any solutions to this problem but it says that Google does need to do something to make sure this kind of blatantly fraudulent app doesn’t ever again rise to the top of its paid apps download chart.