One of the new features that the post-PC world has made popular is the concept of the app store. These app stores offer users a chance to browse and download apps from a single official repository with just a few clicks or taps. Apple has an app store. Google has an app store. And Microsoft has an app store.
And it appears that Microsoft's online app store is suffering from a serious infestation of scam and fake apps turning up with discomforting regularity in popular searches.
Fire up the Microsoft Store in Windows 8 (or visit the store online) and go looking for "antivirus" apps and users are faced with apps such as these, neither of which are genuine security apps:
Go searching for popular browsers and you come across things such as these, none of which are genuine, and most of this are little more than paid for links to the genuine applications.
On top of that there are apps that are blatant scams and egregious trademark violations. How this particular example got past Microsoft boggles the mind:
And what about this app, unashamedly titled "Get Windows 8.1 update here":
Oh, and check out this totally unofficial "Adobe Flash Player" from "microsoft studioz":
Genuine? Definitely not! Again, the fact that such a developer name got past Microsoft staggers me.
I could go on and on, but I won't.
The problem here is that these apps pollute popular searches that regular users – people who might not have the tech smarts that you or I have to be able to spot them as scams – are likely to carry out. While these apps should set off the alarm bells for people reading this, their purpose is clear – to scam users.
And remember, Microsoft also gets a cut from every sale made.
Scam apps are a problem that faces all app stores. Apple's tightly curated model seems to be the best at keeping them to a minimum, while Google's more relaxed attitude allows a greater volume of dubious apps into the store. But Microsoft's Store seems to be suffering badly, with some blatantly scammy and fraudulent apps turning up in popular searches. The fact that apps with names such as "Windows 8.1" or "Adobe Dreamweaver" are present, or that a developer can call themselves "Microsoft" seems to suggest that whoever is in charge of checking apps before allowing them into the store is asleep on the job.
While there's no doubt that there are many good, genuine apps in the Microsoft Store, there's also an appalling volume of junk apps, rendering it a dangerous place for users. Many of the listings I've highlighted above are quite obviously bogus, but there are plenty of far more subtle examples that might not be so easy to identify.
For the record, I did not test any of these downloads for malware.
It's time for Microsoft to do a better job of curating its online app store.