Windows Phone 7 app developers may be understandably anxious tonight, as the first proof-of-concept hack for pirating WP7 Marketplace apps has been created.
Piracy is a major problem for smartphone apps, with Android and iPhone programs regularly cracked and distributed online. The WP7 hack is particularly nefarious, as it enables the user to download and crack apps directly from the Marketplace. All a pirate needs to do to get a full version of a paid program on his WP7 phone is to search, select it, and click to transfer the generated file to his phone. The ease with which anyone could casually pirate WP7 apps with this tool is frightening. Embarrassingly, this isn’t the first time Microsoft’s made some gaffes with mobile app DRM.
Thankfully, the tool is not out in the open, and there are no plans to release it. The developer informed Microsoft of the techniques used to bypass its security, and the company is presumably working on fixes. While the developer has no intent of helping any pirates, it admittedly only took him six hours to put the tool together, so a determined hacker could theoretically duplicate his work before Microsoft can act.
If developers can’t trust a platform, why should they continue to develop for it? Android and iOS have enough users that apps can survive even with piracy. If it becomes a problem for WP7, especially with its user base still developing, we could see some coders take their skills elsewhere.