Cyber Attack: Fake Ratings

Do you think that all ratings in the Play Store are real? I’m absolutely convinced that there are massive cyber attacks against apps. I’ve observed lots of abnormalities. A few of them are listed below. Is it just against my apps or is it even against IT companies of a particular country? Have you read the articles about election cyber attacks?

  1. I’ve received lots of emails like “Buy Android App Downloads & Ratings”. For example, you can buy one hundred 5-star ratings for $150. I’ve seen offers with 1-star ratings, too.
  2. Are one-star ratings like the following real? “…pro features will cost you about 16€. Luckily, there are alternatives.” This seems to me like a wilful misstatement. You probably know that pro features in my apps always cost you only a few bucks. Who did that?
  3. Here’s another example of a weird comment: “Bad It is fake apk…pls don’t download this…..it’s worst your megabytes….. It is bad….”. What is a fake apk? PhotoMap is a professional app and not a fake. What do you think of such a comment? Who wrote it?
  4. Here’s a quote from an email I received: “time for your aps to go.” Is this a threat?
  5. I’ve often seen the words “Horrible” or “Terrible” in one-star ratings of my apps in different languages. Those one-word expressions do not explain what’s wrong or what is apparently not working properly. Can an app really be horrible or terrible? A horror movie can be horrible, and an earthquake is something terrible, right?
  6. I’ve seen apps full of ads and with lots of bad reviews, but with an average rating of 4 and higher. An almost unusable app, which at the same time has received a madly high number of 5-star ratings? How is that possible?
  7. In one of my apps it seems to me that the app gets one- or two-star reviews as soon as a certain threshold (e.g. an average rating of 4.205) has been exceeded. Someone obviously doesn’t want the app to be more successful than that. I’ve been watching it for months, and I’m absolutely convinced that it’s a long-lasting cyber attack. Is it just against my apps, or is it even against companies of a particular country? Who controls that?
  8. Do you think that one-star ratings with the comment “Top” are real? Especially if that happens repeatedly?
  9. I’ve seen a review for one of my apps with a comment like “ads haven’t been removed”. Then I see that in-app products of this app haven’t been bought at all for a while, in particular not in the language of the user. I’ve asked the user to give me the ordering number to refund the purchase, but no answer. This has happened repeatedly in a similar form.
  10. Last but not least I’ve received emails like this: “Why no paid app why in app purchase you bastard?”

Is all this normal today? What can you do about it?

  1. Give good ratings a thumb up and bad ratings a thumb down on the Play Store.
  2. Report spam and inappropriate reviews on the Play Store.
  3. Give fair ratings.
  4. Write real reviews and add useful comments.

What can app developers do?

  1. Continue developing and hoping that there are still users finding their apps even if they are listed somewhere at the bottom of the PlayStore due to bad ratings. What’s the result? Honest developers probably do not earn much money, right?
  2. Buy 5 star ratings? Google doesn’t allow developers to influence the ratings. This is a good decision. The problem is that fake ratings are hard to detect. What’s the result? Dishonest developers buy fake ratings, right?
  3. Stop developing and do something else. This leaves the store to the dishonest developers, doesn’t it?

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