With over 5 billion mobile devices worldwide, mobile apps have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. 12.3 billion apps were downloaded in 2019, and reports estimate 90% of all time spent on mobile devices is spent on apps. Savvy businesses have leveraged this interest in apps into a lucrative way to connect with consumers, with worldwide revenue from mobile apps expected to reach $935.2 billion by 2023.
With the overwhelming pervasiveness of apps, it’s no wonder bad actors are looking to cash in, increasingly turning to hundreds of third party app stores as a way to distribute their apps. Third party app stores are those that carry apps that weren’t created specifically by a device manufacturer and or the manufacturer of a device’s operating system.
While many third party app stores are well run and responsive to abuse claims, others lack consistent oversight which makes them tempting targets for bad actors. Bad actors upload their malicious apps to these less-regulated platforms in the hopes that unsuspecting users will download them. In fact, in a report by Symantec, 99.9% of mobile malware found during the reporting period was hosted by third party app stores.
The most nefarious of these malicious apps are unauthorized copies of official apps. Created to mimic the look and feel of a trusted brand, these apps may contain malicious code or seek out unnecessary permissions and can be used to do everything from clone accounts, access sensitive information, expose photos or details stored on the phone. They can also be used to illegally drive up ad revenue by inserting extra ads into your web browser.
Just one of these fake apps hiding behind your brand’s intellectual property in any app store can be dangerous to your brand. Infringing apps directly impact your consumer’s ability to have authentic experiences with your app, damaging your brand’s reputation and your ability to advance your mobile commerce revenues and goals.
Brands need to include regular scans of third party app platforms in their brand protection programs, and enforce on any infringing apps they find as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, with thousands of new apps being uploaded every day in multiple app stores, maintaining vigilance can be time-consuming, especially when multiplied by the need to navigate the reporting requirements for hundreds of third party app stores.
Although this landscape might appear overwhelming at first glance, there are options and strategies brands can employ. As a result of our work, we’ve developed a guide that provides brands with an overview of the steps that should be taken when an infringing app is discovered on a third party platform. To help combat brand abuse, we’ve decided to make this guide available to brandholders and their legal teams here.