A staggering 20 per cent of Android apps that claim to be Fortnite may actually contain code that leak private information or install rogue apps on your phone.
These compromised apps ask for permission to do things that can leak information about you to malicious people, including asking for access to your camera, monitoring your calls and installing other software in the background.
The wide release of Fortnite on Android won’t actually happen until the end of September.
Until then it’s only available on a small number of devices, and users have to wait for the game’s publisher, Epic, to send them a beta access code.
With Fortnite being so popular with young people it’s possible their desire to play is leading them to other sites that might not be so legitimate.
Its popularity with kids also makes these security problems even more worrying. Parents will be concerned to learn that someone could be spying on their children, or even seeing them with the phone’s camera.
Simon Migliano, head of research at Top10VPN.com, which conducted the investigation, said: “Fortnite is a victim of its own success. It now reportedly has 125 million active users, and while this is great news for the publisher, its success has acted as a blazing beacon to unofficial developers and scammers.”
Researchers downloaded Fortnite from various online sources and compared the code to the official app.
They discovered that 30 per cent were just guides with no access to the game. Around 10 per cent contained nothing of value, but might contain malicious software.
Problems like this are exactly the reason for trusted sources like Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Both companies take care to ensure that games and apps are what they say they are and that they don’t have malicious code.
Because Epic didn’t want to hand over a cut of in-app revenue to Google, it has taken the decision to distribute it via its own website. A deal with Samsung means it’s also available in the Galaxy App Store.
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Epic has protected the actual Fortnite game download so that it can only be played on certain devices and once your account has been approved for the beta. However some people have created new versions of the app with modifications to work around this.
The problem is, once you install an unofficial version of the app you can’t be sure what other modifications have been made to it.
The iOS version of the game for Apple devices has apparently been downloaded more than 100 million times. While free, the game generates revenue through in-app purchases. Some estimates claim this has generated $1bn in revenue so far for Epic.
App stores like Google and Apple take a 30 per cent cut of these in-game transactions. Epic is attempting to save money and generate more revenue by cutting Google out. But not using the official store means there’s no moderation and fewer safeguards to protect users.