27 Mar 2014

US Department of Justice Wins First-Ever Convictions of Mobile App Pirates

Two Florida website owners became the first-ever suspects in the US convicted of pirating mobile apps after authorities caught them selling more than a million copies of copyrighted Android applications worth $700,000.

Americans Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, and Thomas Allen Dye, 21, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, according to a press release by the US Department of Justice. Sentencing is expected in coming months.

Their website, Appbucket, was an alternative online market selling Android apps without permission of the creators of the apps. Once installed on a user's smartphone, Appbucket acted as a distribution platform for the pirated apps. The platform was seized in 2012 after two years of operation.

“These mark the first convictions secured by the Justice Department against those who illegally distribute counterfeit mobile apps,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil. “These men trampled on the intellectual property rights of others.”

A Bitdefender study of about 420,000 apps showed that more than 1 percent were stolen from other developers and re-engineered for illicit gains. Furthermore, applications uploaded by 2,140 verified developers are over 90 percent identical (library code aside) to the work of other developers on the official Android Store.

To avoid privacy risks, users are advised to double-check app permissions and use Bitdefender Clueful, which reveals what intrusive apps are doing in the background without the user’s knowledge.