My App was reverse engineered and relisted with new ads what can I do??

I am a relatively new android developer (6 months with 5 very basic android apps released to date)
Before this I had no experience whatsoever and have thought myself everything I have needed to know as I went along.
I was aware that android apps can be fairly straight forward to reverse engineer so I made sure to use proguard to atleast offer some level of defence.

One of my applications was originally listed on the 11th of september and after the first month the downloads started to decline as it would no longer have been receiving any prominence in Google play. However afew days later I started to see a spike in my google analytics suddenly the app was getting an extra couple hundred downloads a day, but with no increased income, I looked through my stats and could see most of the downloads were for a version code which I had never released and although most of my downloads were showing as originating from certain countries I had practically no impressions showing for these countries in my admob, etc…

At this stage the downloads were still increasing, I was convinced that someone must have cloned my app and relisted it without removing the reference to my google analytics so I began looking through the app store for similar apps which were initially released when the increase in downloads began. It took less than 5 minutes to find it, and after a quick download and test I knew without doubt this was my application!!

The person had copied my icon but changed some colors(truth be told theirs looks better)
Changed the splash page ( once again an improvement on my own)
And any screenshots which showcased my app were removed with generic ones which mislead people as to the apps actual use, and probably in case an inquisitive developer might scan through the play store to check out there competitors, and inadvertently identify their own work!
The listing itself is also littered with key words unrelated to this actual app I presume to help with play store optimization.
The ads ids were changed but were still with admob like my own, but everything and I do mean everything else was left exactly the same.

This is what astounds me, this person did not make any attempt beyond what I have mentioned above to hide that this was simple theft.
My about us page which gives credit to myself as the developer and my company name is still in this persons app.
And also after 3 days of use I have an app rater pop up which kicks in and this is still referencing my app with its original name and the link still brings the user to my google play account, and even the google analytics reference comes back to my account so I can see each download under this persons version.

I have sent a request to googles removals team, the same day I noticed (about 5 or 6 days ago), a day later I got a reply asking for exact details about how this app is stolen and whatever else, and thats it!! Thats the last ive heard of it. The app is still active and increasing in downloads daily over 2300 yesterday while mine plods along at 130-150 :frowning:

After the initial anger wore off I was kind of flattered that firstly my app was doing so well when listed by someone with obvious experience and that this person chose my app from countless others, although it may have just been left with weaknesses that made it easier to reverse engineer. I am trying to look at the positives and I will be amending my app with better screenshots, app icon etc now that I know my app has more potential than I originally thought but I dont know if I should do this until the other developers app has been removed.

I have not been able to stop thinking about it since, each day this persons downloads grow and undoubtedly his revenue also while my legitimate app earns me a euro or two a day if I’m lucky. This has led me to afew questions which after googling I dont seem to be able to find many answers to.

  1. In addition to proguard is there anything else I should be implementing in my apps to protect my code?

  2. Are there certain app stores I should avoid listing on, where people are more likely to poach apks in this way?

  3. But most importantly of all, what recourse do I have? I see it as a pretty cut and dry case it clearly lists on this app that I am the original author so their should be no dispute there, will this persons developer account be shut down? Is there anything I can do from the admob side to try and claim the money which he has earned with my work or would they even entertain such a request?

I know this is quite a long post so I thank you if you have made it this far, and I know I am asking a lot of questions, but literally any information at all would be greatly appreciated, possibly if someone has been through the same thing and knows where I might go from here.

Thanks again for reading, and for any help you might be able to give,

Stephen.

there is nothing you can do about it, the best you can do is learn how to live with it cause obsfuscation does not protect your code from hacks/reverse engineering. People still hack/recompile games of big companies like gameloft, ea etc. That what those kind of people do, the best thing u can do is to report them or tell ur friends to give them bad reviews for clone. Do you mind sharing the link to the app?

I thought as much unfortunately, as I mentioned I am relatively new to android and coding in general but I was thinking about the possibility of having my apps pull there images from the internet or something like that upon start up and have it check that the package name is my own or something, but as I say ive very limited experience so im not even sure if that would be possible or even help in any way.

I rather not share the link while googles investigate is ongoing, wouldnt like to give this person the oppertunity to take the app down before google have a chance to intervene

ok, but i just need the link 2 d app inorder 2 know who d dude his and 2 not to do anything stupid. U can send it via PM if u dnt mind.

As android is open platforms things like this do happen here. The most important thing is your creativity which can be applied to build an app which can be more popular than your previous one, you need to believe that from your heart.

This is terrible. For me, people who steals codes like that are like thiefs with no respect for others work. They’re just stupid people that can’t create anythng on their own, so they prefer to use the little bit of brain cells they have learning how to steal apps.

One app store that I certainly avoid is SlideMe. They have a system that is a PITA to upload stuff, with a million fields to fill, you get flagged for miscathegorizing apps just because their system have very few cathegories, they are full of ads from sketchy platforms and they don’t have an actual app store, only allows people to download the apk freely. So many cons for just few downloads a day, and in countries with very very low ECPM. Avoid it for sure.

Hi guys. We have a perfect solution for avoiding such kind of problems. Please check out Appwatermark project. It is a side project of Addvertize network and it will be launched soon. Basically it will give you a protection from:

-reverse engineering
-ads/in-app billing etc removal !
-any kind of injections or manipulations with source code

No coding required, just an APK file and couple of minutes are needed, which is extremely handy.

The best part here is that it will be affordable for indie developers, not to say about several free “welcome” integrations :slight_smile:

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