Tuesday, July 30, 2019

4Share All 4Stealing Your Money

Ethical Case Controversy

Image result for hacking app            In June of 2019 New IT Solutions was caught in a huge case.  They were making purchases with customers cards without them knowing.  They were very sneaky with how they did it too.  They hired a coding company from Honk Kong called Elephant Data who specializes in coding apps for a ton of companies.  Both companies have been around for a while and have made countless apps that millions of people use every day.  This new app that has caused the problems is called 4Share.  It’s a file-sharing app that has over 100 million downloads and gets used every day.  New IT Solutions paid Elephant data to go in and add a hidden third-party code into the background of the app.  What this code did was bring up invisible adds they made purchases within the app on customers cards without them even knowing it was happening in the first place. They then went in again and put in a second code to make sure the same phone never got hacked twice to make sure now red flags were risen.   They knew exactly what they were doing and didn’t decide to stop.  Right after all of this information came out the app was removed from the Google Play store since they just wanted no part of this case.  Since there were around 10 million everyday users of 4Share it was too late to take off the store, people were already being hacked for purchases.  The company said that they were “unaware” of the hacking going on but once they were questioned, they immediately cut all contact with Elephant Data.  Elephant data was also asked multiple about this whole case and had no response to any of the questions.  Thanks to Secure-D more then 114 million transactions made by 4Shared were stopped before they could be completed.  Secure-D is a cyber security company based out of London that is the only reason people are not being hacked by 4Share any more.  If it wasn’t for Secure-D more then 150 million dollars in charges would have went through and been charged to people’s credit/debit cards. Once this data was all found another London company called Upstream also did some work and found out all about the secret third-party codes that were going on in the background and charging people without their consent.
Image result for 4shared app


            The main stakeholders in this case are the company, New IT Solutions, Elephant data and the people getting hacked.  Some other players in this are the Google Play store, Android app store, government, and the rest of the world.  The first three are directly in contact with the problem.  New IT Solutions made the app with Elephant Data who decided to add in third party code to create this whole problem about making purchases without getting’s people consent first.  The two app stores that put this app on the market also have to be blamed a little since they should have ways to check if an app is safe or not.  I am not sure on the technicality’s that go into making an app, but these stores should be able to check if an app is safe.  The government now has to deal with this since it will be a huge lawsuit to get the people their money back and make sure that measures are put into place to protect people in the future.  The final player is the rest of the population since this is a scary thing since they have apps just like it that could possibly getting hacked as you are reading this. 

Image result for money from app            Individualism is the simplest theory that we will be going over.  Its right in the name, it’s all about the individual’s gain. No matter the outcome the individual must come out with as much profit as possible within the limits of the law. New IT Solutions followed the first part of this theory perfectly with trying to make as much profit as possible, but they forgot the very important second part, within the limits of the law. They place third party code into their app to allow it to go into people’s phones and make purchases without there consent.  This means the company was making huge amounts of profits each and every day, but they were going about it completely illegally.  The app was making purchases with people’s credit or debit cards without them ever knowing it was happening. Since they didn’t follow the laws at all then this whole case is unethical.


            The main idea of Utilitarianism is that no matter what you must bring happiness to the biggest number of people you can.  In this case New IT Solutions really made their investors and their pockets happy but decreased the happiness in their company a lot more. They also didn’t make the app stores they are a part of very happy, since having an app on your store that can hack some one’s phone doesn’t make your store look safe.  The big question is doing they know about this third-party code.  The answer is absolutely, there is no way they would have hired Elephant data if they didn’t want this third-party code in the app in the first place.  Both companies are to blame, and both should be held equally responsible for this hacking.  They shouldn’t be happy with themselves by going behind peoples backs to make a profit either.  Especially now with the repercussions of this backlash they will be getting.  No knowing person will download any of their app that come out now, so in the long run this really will end up hurting their overall profits since the best customers are return customers, and after this they won’t be having many of those return customers anymore.  This action was totally unethical and wound up hurting both companies in the end.


            Kantianism is all about doing what’s right no matter the gain or loss.  The profit you make and the people you make happy don’t matter like in the previous two cases but doing what’s right is all that matters.  In this case with the app making purchases that customers were unaware of is not doing the right thing.  Yeah, they made tons of profit and made their investors happy but what they did was flat out wrong and illegal.  The worst part is they knew what they were doing the whole time. They added in a third-party code into the background of the app for it to make purchases without users’ consent. On top of that they added more code so that it never hit the same customer twice to make sure no red flags were risen in the process of collecting the money.  Nothing that New IT Solutions did could be deemed ethical under the rules of Kantianism. 

Virtue Theory

            Virtue Theory is the final ethical theory that I will be taking a look at for this case. There are four main parts to this theory.  They are justice, self-control, courage, and honesty.  In order to be deemed ethical by the virtue theory.  All four of these parts are not followed by New IT Solutions making this a very unethical move by them.  They had zero self-control and were just blinded by the money they were making to see that what they were doing was wrong.  Since they were hiding this from the public and going behind their backs to make the money then you could say they were as dishonest as possible.  The addition of the code to make sure no phone was hacked twice was even more dishonest because they were trying even harder to hide what they were doing.  They also knew everything that they were doing which makes this whole situation worse.  It’s not like someone hacked them and added the code, they added the code on their own to try and make more profit. It takes a lot of courage to do the right thing and make money the right way and no courage at all to do something illegal. Since none of the four parts of the virtue theory were passed by this case then it has to be deemed unethical. 

Justified Ethics Evaluation
            After reading through this case and dissecting it with the four ethical theories I just talked about you can really see how unethical this case is.  Just by reading the title of it I’m sure most people can gather that it is unethical to begin with, but when you dive deeper and find out what really happened, they you might think twice about downloading one of New IT Solutions apps in the future.  Although they thought that they could make some quick profit by cheating the system and hacking people’s phones in the end it wound up hurting their company name tenfold. They won’t be getting many return customers and that will hurt them more than the quick profit they made is helping them.  This was extremely unethical, and the companies involved should really take a hard look at their values. 

 Zac Nussbaum


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“Slashdot.” File-Storage App 4shared Caught Serving Invisible Ads and Making Purchases Without Consent, it.slashdot.org/story/19/07/03/1738253/file-storage-app-4shared-caught-serving-invisible-ads-and-making-purchases-without-consent.
Das, Judhajeet. “File-Storage App 4shared Caught Serving Invisible Ads and Making Purchases without Consent.” MyDroidDoes!, 2 July 2019, mydroiddoes.info/file-storage-app-4shared-caught-serving-invisible-ads-and-making-purchases-without-consent/.
Spadafora, Anthony. “Popular Cloud Storage App Hides a Rather Nasty Surprise **Updated with Comments**.” TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, 3 July 2019, www.techradar.com/au/news/popular-cloud-storage-app-hides-a-rather-nasty-surprise.

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