Is it safe to download free apps on your cell phone?
"To begin with, many of us at some stage in our lives will have taped a CD or TV program, photocopied a book or made use of copied software. For most of us, there is a world of difference between this kind of activity and crimes like rape, murder or the supply of illicit drugs. Intellectual property piracy is just not an issue in the way that safe streets and better policing are issues in the public mind (p. 25 Information Feudalism)."
Pirated software could cause your personal information on your phone to be compromised. According to Matthew J. Schwartz with Information Week, "More than 1 million cell phone users in China has been infected with a virus that automatically sends text messages, and the attack is costing users a combined 2 million yuan ($300,000 U.S.) per day." According to Shanghai Daily, "the 'zombie' virus, hidden in a bogus antivirus application, can send the phone user's SIM card information to hackers, who then remotely control the phone to send URL links."
Some of the sent text messages contain links to more viruses and if you click the link, your phone could likewise be infected. Then other text messages get automatically dispatched to premium-rate phone numbers, generating profits for the attackers while draining subscriber's accounts. According to Zhou Yonglin, an official with China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Team, "about 1 million cell phones had been infected since the beginning of September, and mobile operators were having difficulty eradicating the malicious application, owing to the breakneck pace of new variations appearing."
Also, some people will download a pirated phone app thinking that they will save money by doing so. Instead, they download Android.Walkinwat which is a trojan that not only steals a person's information, it also sends a text message to everyone on the user's cellphone list, telling everyone about the piracy. According to PCWorld, the "Android.Walkinwat adds public humiliation by sending an SMS text message to all of the contacts on the smartphone with the text, ‘Hey, just downloaded a pirate App of the Internet, Walk and Text for Android. Im stupid and cheap, it costed only 1 buck. Don’t steal it like I did!”
It is hard to tell how many people are using pirated apps that may be compromising the security of their cell phones. Estimates of people who are using an app they did not pay for are as high as 97.4% in Asia, 70.1% in Europe, and 43% in North America. So why do people download free apps if it compromises their privacy and is against the law? Probably because to most people software piracy is not a big issue. If you can get something for free then what is the harm? The immediate harm is that a person's private information can be compromised. These viruses can be easily transmitted by being downloaded as normal games, ringtones, phone alerts and updates, then once downloaded these cell phone viruses can do big damage.
For most people, software piracy is not a big crime like committing murder or illicitly selling drugs. Also, if the software is free and very popular then it is one of those "everybody is doing it" attitudes. Pirated games exist because people get a thrill out of cracking games — and because there will always be people who want something for nothing. It is the same thing that happened with the music industry. When music CD's were $20 for a music album, people were gladly downloading their favorite songs for free on sites like Napster and BearShare. Now that people can download their favorite songs for .99$, the desire for illegally downloading music has dramatically decreased.
The same rule holds true for computer software: as long as software designers keep their computer software at a certain price, people will gladly continue to download pirated copies. If the software developers had their products priced at $.99 a download or charged a monthly fee to have access to a particular software program, then software piracy would dramatically decrease.