Feeds

Android app DRM quietly disabled due to bug

Copy protection crashed apps

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Google has temporarily deactivated a security feature designed to make it harder to make illicit copies of apps for the latest version of its Android mobile OS, owing to a bug that rendered the secured versions of some apps inoperable.

The feature, which was introduced with Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," encrypts all paid apps downloaded from the Google Play store with a device-specific key. Apps so encoded will only run on the device that originally downloaded them, even if the user manually copies them to another device using backup software.

Shortly after the new feature debuted in July, however, reports started trickling in to Google's Android bug database that some users were having a hard time launching apps on their Jelly Bean devices, even though theirs were legitimate copies.

The root of the problem appears to be a defect in Android 4.1's system startup code, which corrupts affected apps whenever the user powers on or reboots the device.

According to the latest reports, however, users who have deleted the affected apps and then downloaded them again using the latest version of the Google Play Store have seen the problems disappear.

The re-downloaded apps are now installed in the unencrypted portion of the Android device's memory, where they are stored on earlier versions of Android, which indicates that Google has deactivated App Encryption for Jelly Bean devices until it can produce a fix.

Google did not respond to The Reg's request for comment on the problem. As of last Wednesday, however, the bug's status has been marked "FutureRelease" in the online ad-slinger's database. That means it has been recognized as a legitimate Android bug and will be fixed in a future OS update, although no time frame has been given.

The delay is bound to disappoint developers who have been hoping that App Encryption would cut down on illegal app copying among Android users. In July, software developer Matt Gemmell wrote a lengthy diatribe against Google's mobile OS, saying that compared to Apple's locked-down iOS ecosystem, the Android platform is "designed for piracy."

In truth, however, most developers will be little affected by the sudden – and presumably temporary – loss of App Encryption, because not many of their customers' devices support it in the first place. So far, Jelly Bean is only available for a limited set of kit, including Google's Nexus devices and the Motorola Xoom, with the majority of Android devices are still running version 2.3 of the OS. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Post-Microsoft, post-PC programming: The portable REVOLUTION
Code jockeys: count up and grab your fabulous tablets
Twitter App Graph exposes smartphone spyware feature
You don't want everyone to compile app lists from your fondleware? BAD LUCK
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.