Google Disables App Protection on Jellybeans due to security glitch

Posted on Aug 8 2012 - 10:20am by Abhi Bavishi

Google had already laid its game plan of providing top-notch security and nailing down app-piracy with Jellybeans. However amidst the entire buzz, it seems to have overlooked the ‘spoiler-ahead’ board.

The DRM feature which came pre-loaded with the latest version of Android was expected to sabotage app piracy. The move to include app-encyption feature had become extremely necessary, considering the various debacles which had hit the Android Play Store recently.

However, the undaunted move has received a setback after many users complained that they were not able to access the apps, despite having bought legal copies from the Play Store.

The “app-encryption” feature was supposedly going to prevent illicit copies of paid apps by encrypting those apps which a user downloads, with a unique device-specific key. That would mean only the device which downloads a particular app should be able to use the app and people who used to copy apps manually from one device to another would be put in utter anguish.

However, shortly after the feature has debuted in July, reports started outflowing that some users were not able to download the app despite having downloaded legitimate copies of the apps. According to developers, the root-cause for this would be some bug in Android’s 4.1 start-up code which has been tweaked to corrupt any malicious/illegal apps during the boot-up itself.

[Temporary workaround: If you’re a Jellybean user and need a workaround to this app-corruption problem, here’s what you should do. Uninstall all the paid apps from your device and download them again via Play Store. Though these apps would be installed in the unencrypted section of Android memory, it pretty much resolves the issue, at least for now]

Google has forbidden itself from commenting any further on the issue. However, the bug’s status has been marked “Future Release” in the Google database, which would mean some workaround would be deployed in the future versions of the Android OS.

For now, Google has disabled the security feature, thereby doing justice to those people who have actually paid for the apps. However it has side-lined the fact that this would again make Android less secure and more prone to piracy issues.

The developer community seems terribly irked with the piracy levels on Android with many iOS developers laying claims that Android is ‘designed for piracy’. Maybe, it’s high time for Google to take app-piracy seriously and work on with on it with its heads down.

Is Google too soft in framing strict policies or is it inadvertently making the term ‘open’ way too ambiguous? We think both are equally true.

What do you think?

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About the Author

Abhi is a tech-writer, a software engineer, a photographer, a traveler, and a coffee-lover. He’s passionate about everything that’s even remotely digital. He portrays his obsession with tech-toys in his reviews and articles. You can connect with him at [email protected] Don’t worry. We checked. He doesn’t bite.

  • ChrisLH

    Does this occur even if DRM is turned off within the Developer Console? We don’t activate the DRM protection on our apps so does this new security feature override that and implement it through the device/JellyBean, or does this only apply to apps which use the provided DRM?