Arrggggh!

An interesting thing happened yesterday that we chose to not cover in detail. In short, someone published an app to the Windows Phone Marketplace that was pirated. Specifically it was a favorite GPS navigation app that cost a good amount of money.  The person responsible presumably ripped the original XAP from the Marketplace and simply re-submitted it, pawning it off as their own.

Did they try to make money from it? Nope, they did something possibly worse--they offered it for free.

Word spread in individual forums and especially on some foreign Windows Phone sites, resulting in lots of folks downloading the app, confirming it was a real working version, un-crippled. Many users were ecstatic saving so much money, many of us were appalled. How does app security break down so badly for this to happen? The good news, as you can infer from the title, was the Microsoft was on top of the problem from early on. We contacted Microsoft's Brandon Watson on the matter, and he responded:

"We identified this situation, through our normal monitoring processes, earlier today and both removed (unpublished) the app from the catalog and revoked the app from users who downloaded it. Since cache refresh times vary by country and handset, this may not be immediately visible but will be within the next 24-48 hours."

Sure enough, just a few hours later the app disappeared from the Marketplace, the uploader's account presumably was terminated (we can't find it anymore) and anyone who has the app installed, will have it revoked very soon, if not already. That last part is always interesting: Microsoft can and evidently will prevent you from running any illegal app on your phone. So keep that in mind next time you think you can sneak away with your bounty (should you be tempted).

Now, it still seems odd and unfortunate that people can pirate things and just re-upload them to the Marketplace, and certainly that is something that can be improved. But at least when these things do happen, Microsoft seems to have a quick response (~24 hours) and technically, no one got away with anything, including all of those who downloaded it. 

Could things be better? Sure, they always can. Perhaps a more streamlined method to report piracy in the future could be instantiated, but at this point it seems like a rare thing to happen--let's hope it stays that way.