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FTC: Duo bought rights to Android game – then turned it into ad-slinging junkware in an update

Pair settles in case of legit app gone bad

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled its case against a pair of developers accused of purchasing an Android game and turning it into an adware faucet.

The FTC said Ali Moiz and Murtaza Hussain, proprietors of software company Vulcun, have agreed to requirements that include gaining explicit user permission before installing any changes to their apps. This comes after they were accused of covertly adding new software to customer devices via an innocent-looking version update.

The regulator had charged the pair with misleading customers and violating user privacy after they purchased the Android game Running Fred from another developer and issued an update that turned the game into an app downloader.

The app downloader, pushed out to approximately 200,000 who previously had downloaded only the original Running Fred game, would then proceed to install software and serve ads on the devices without user knowledge or permission, earning Vulcun a commission in the process.

"After Vulcun acquired the Running Fred game, they used it to install a different app, commandeer people's computers, and bombard them with ads," said FTC consumer protection bureau director Jessica Rich.

"We're very pleased we were able to stop these practices."

Under the terms of the settlement [PDF], Vulcun will be required to clearly explain the behaviors and any changes to the permissions of any of the products, including browser extensions, mobile games, and websites.

The company will also be forbidden from misleading customers about what its products do, what permissions they obtain, and any link to sponsored content or advertisements. Vulcun will also be required to provide the FTC with copies of all of its advertisements and any complaints it receives from customers for the next five years.

Should Vulcun violate any of the terms of the agreement, it could encounter further complaints and fines from the FTC. ®

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