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Unofficial Nintendo game apps hide nasty ads in Android store

May 1, 2012 12:20pm
Gaming addicts with Android devices should be wary of supposed Android versions of Nintendo classic games like “The Legend of Zelda” from the Google Play store – they may hide nasty ads.
 
Computer security firm Sophos said one user who installed a “Legend of Zelda” game on his Android smartphone from the Google Play marketplace found aggressive ads on his notifications bar.
 
“Remember, of course, that Nintendo doesn’t create official versions of its popular Legend of Zelda games for any non-Nintendo platform. So anytime you see a Zelda game being hawked for the PC, Macintosh, Android or iOS system it’s almost certainly illegitimate,” it said in a blog post.
 
It added the offending app has since been removed by Google.
 
Sophos said that in this case, the app is an open source N64 emulator packaged with an old game ROM – and as such, “clearly represents theft of Nintendo’s intellectual property.”
 
Also, it said the app added two icons to the Android phone’s home screen, one claiming to be a shoot-the-terrorist game, and the other to something calling itself “Top Offers.”
 
But the icons are just shortcuts to web links, Sophos noted.
 
“Whoever is behind the application that installed the icons is hoping that Android users will click on them and to display advertising,” it said.
 
It noted six icons that the app could install onto users’ home screens, supposedly designed to represent YouTube, Game of the Day, iTunes, and assorted Nintendo characters.
 
“Whoever created the illegitimate Zelda app is probably hoping you are going to click on one of those icons,” it said.
 
Meanwhile, Sophos also noted similar apps such as “Counter Terrorism” app, which resides on the official Android Google Play market.
 
It claims to be a first-person shooter in the style of “Call of Duty” or “CounterStrike” but is also designed to install shortcuts using misleading icons onto the home screen – “and bug you with advertising from several different advertising frameworks (Google Ads, Leadbolt, Airpush, Mobox and Sellaring).”
 
“There’s nothing wrong with ad-supported apps, of course. That’s a legitimate business model. But there’s something very shady about taking the hard work of others (or indeed their intellectual property) and trying to make a quick buck out of it by installing irritating shortcuts and revenue-generating adverts,” it said.
 
Aside from games, Sophos said it found other Android apps that we found in the Google Play store, all seemingly up to the same shady practices.
 
“For instance, the MP3 Music Download Free app claims to use code from Ringdroid - an Android open source project designed to help you create your own ringtones, and alarm noises,” it said.
 
Another, Star Chart Free, claims to use the open source code of the StarDroid sky-mapping app.
 
There are genuine apps with similar names, and it appears that these dodgy icon-installing apps have been created purely to trick users into installing them, Sophos said.
 
Sophos said its products detect the apps as Andr/Adop-A.
 
“It can’t go without saying that it seems extremely unlikely that Apple would ever have allowed these apps to have entered its App Store for iPhones and iPads. Once again, the freedom offered by the Google Android market is being abused,” it said. — RSJ, GMA News