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Researchers have disclosed that a top selling antivirus application that was available at the Google Play Store was nothing more than a complete scam – but made the developer a tidy sum.

The purveyor of the software called Virus Shield, which sold for $3.99 and had a rating of 4.7 stars, claimed that it would “improve the speed of your phone” and “protect you and your personal information from harmful viruses, malware, and spyware,” but in fact does absolutely none of those things.

“It’s a complete and total scam,” wrote Michael Crider for The Android Police. “We don’t mean in the slightly skeevy way that some anti-virus and general security software overstates dangers and its own necessity. We mean it’s literally a fake security app: the only thing that it does is change from an ‘X’ image to a ‘check image after a single tap. That’s it. That’s all there is, there isn’t any more.

The team decompiled and analyzed the code for the application and made it available on GitHub. Unfortunately, the application was downloaded more than 10,000 times over the course of a week before it was removed from the Play Store.

“We’ve confirmed that this app is totally and completely devoid of any security benefit.” Crider said, noting that users should be just as cautious about downloading security software as they are about any other application. “Let’s not mince words here. This is fraud, pure and simple, and the developer Deviant Solutions potentially made considerable amounts of money based on a complete lie.

Fortunately, the scam was only intended to con users out of their money, and the analysis showed no evidence of malicious code that would compromise users’ devices.

“Any effective way of deterring outright fraudsters like this would go way beyond the basic filtering that Google is doing at the moment, and it would also make the Play Store less ‘open,’ if only marginally so,” Crider continued.

“That being said, it’s also clear that something needs to be done. Perhaps a more hands-on approach to monitoring apps that rise as rapidly as Virus Shield (which we’re almost certain did so with less than genuine downloads and reviews) is called for.”

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