Opinion: Pirated iPhone apps flooding Game Center

Developers suffering from piracy: A sad story we’ve heard before.

If something costs money, someone is going to want to get it for free. TechCrunch released an article recently about how far  iOS app piracy  can spread, if not dealt with properly. TechCrunch didn’t take a stand on where the blame lies, but hinted that Apple wasn’t protecting developers enough from this pandemic.

Let’s face it.

Cracking apps has been made super easy with tools like Crackulous, and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Anyone with a jailbroken iPhone has access to thousands, upon thousands, of cracked App Store apps simply by installing a single repository in Cydia followed by an app to download them like Installous.

The story I reference focused on a development firm named GAMEized. It paints GAMEized as an independent development house who’s trying to get their legs down on solid ground, but that pirated iPhone apps could stand to ruin it all.**

GAMEized released a game titled FingerKicks, which is a pretty neat soccer game with full HD support. The app didn’t appear to be doing so well, as only $97 worth of sales were accrued in the first day. That number decreased with each passing day.

Confused with the lack of interest in their title, they decided to do some research. They didn’t need to look further than Apple’s own Game Center.  They were shocked to see that more than 5,000 people were listed on the leader boards!  Yet, Apple had only reported 160 purchases.

As it turns out, their game had been cracked, and featured on  Hackulo.us ‘ main page.

Hackulo.us  is one of the outfits that brought the tools necessary for cracking and distributing cracked AppS tore apps to the scene. Users of their software can pretty much get their hands on every title released for free.

TechCrunch quoted GAMEized as saying:

Apple apparently has no functional counter-piracy safeguards in place on their Game Center – essentially permitting users to play pirated software on their Game Center without any fear of reprisals or consequence.

Where I stand

My opinion on this matter is complex.

I believe small developers are already at a disadvantage competing with the larger houses, so taking advantage of them really is truly low. This company released a 99 cent app, a pretty damn good one, so I’d hope that most  reasonable people  wouldn’t mind paying them for the enjoyment they get from using it.

On the flip side, I find it rather confusing that they would point the finger at Apple for not having counter-piracy measures in place. The person developing the software should be the one implementing these features, and it’s not something that is impossible to do.

What to do

There have been numerous stories of developers planting easter eggs, or disabling pirated copies of iOS apps. It can be done, and it should be done. This is a situation where you need to stay on top of your game, just like dealing with piracy outside of iOS. The most efficient way, but probably not the best way, would be to cripple your app on jailbroken devices.

Something as simple as the below will deal with the majority of Jailbreakers out there:

NSString *filePath = @”/bin/bash”;if ([[NSFileManager defaultManager] fileExistsAtPath:filePath]){   //Break your app, use up the CPU, display FBI warnings.. }

The above simply looks for the bash executable, which is present on every jailbroken iPhone. If it’s there, you can do what you like. If you remember, Skype did something similar to its iPhone app.

I’ll never claim that I’m an expert developer, or that I can thwart every single cracker out there, but I think developers need to take responsibility for the software they are releasing and protect their interests. I doubt you’ll hear Adobe complaining about Apple not protecting their software from being pirated, even though it’s sold at Apple’s retail stores and the Apple Store online.

I know a lot of people are now claiming foul. Let me say that, yes, I know not all jailbreakers are stealing apps. I have been jailbreaking my iPhone since the day I got it. Heck, even my original iPod has linux on it, but I’m just pointing out that the issue can be managed by the developers.

It’s interesting to me that some of the same people that argue that Android’s open platform is superior to Apple’s iron curtain, also believe Apple isn’t protecting developers with anti-piracy measures.

Inspiration: TechCrunch

**One thing that possibly needs to be noted is that GAMEized actually develops iOS software for their customers using any one of their 12 game engines, or they can even develop an engine from the ground up. They definitely don’t give off the feeling that they are a garage startup, or the kid next door trying to become an app developer.

Josh is the Social Media Director and Sr. Systems Engineer for a startup toy company. He is freakishly into just about anything tech related. When he's not writing, he can be found inventing products at Quirky, or doing 3D renders… Full Bio