Epic Games says it was “irresponsible” of Google to reveal a flaw within the installer for Fortnite on Android.
Epic decided to bypass the Google Play Store with its Fortnite Android release. To download the game, you have to go directly to the Epic Games website and sign up for an invite.
Players granted access to the game must first download a Fortnite installer on their phones, which then downloads the full game. However, on Aug. 15, a Google researcher discovered a flaw with the installer, which can let a separate app on your phone hijack what the software actually downloads.
This can be bad in the event your phone is infected with malware. Imagine a shady app that’s designed to secretly target the Fornite installer; it could rig what it downloads to install adware or other malicious apps — all without a user’s permission.
The good news is that Epic Games rolled out a fix on Aug. 16, which should arrive as an automatic update. Google then made details about the bug public on Friday, despite a request from Epic Games to keep that information confidential for another 90 days.
Epic now claims Google was irresponsible for disclosing the vulnerability so soon. “Why the rapid public release of the technical details? That does nothing but give hackers a chance to target unpatched users,” Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney wrote in a tweet.
He went on to accuse Google of using the vulnerability as a PR effort to bash Epic’s decision to launch Fortnite outside the Google Play Store. “We asked Google to hold the disclosure until the update was more widely installed. They refused, creating an unnecessary risk for Android users in order to score cheap PR points,” he added.
So far, Google hasn’t commented on the dispute, except to say: “User security is our top priority, and as part of our proactive monitoring for malware we identified a vulnerability in the Fortnite installer.” But by making the vulnerability public, the company was effectively tipping off gamers about the need to install the patch.
Why bypass Google Play? Epic wants to avoid paying a 30 percent “store tax” and nix the middleman when it comes to connecting with Fornite players. However, not everyone is a fan of the move; security experts worry that consumers will be caught unaware and end up downloading fake Fortnite apps loaded with malware in an attempt to play the game.
Still, the bug uncovered by Google has nothing to do with a fake Fortnite game, but more with a mistake in programming. Earlier this month, other Android apps, including Google Translate, were also found with similar flaws, according to the security firm Check Point.