Even a hint of sketchy business practices is the last thing users want to see from software that's supposed to guarantee the security of their data and devices. But that's what those who have put their faith in Cerberus are now facing.
Four years ago, the device recovery and anti-theft app that competes with Google's Android Device Manager announced that all free “lifetime” licenses it had issued to customers had been revoked. At the same time, paying customers, also with “lifetime” licenses, were told that the decision would not apply to them. Ever.
But now, Android Police writes citing multiple reports from users, paid lifetime licenses are being canceled as well. To make matters worse, some of those affected haven't even been notified – they realized what was going on only when a license expiration date showed up in the app's settings.
Android Police explains that this means it's “likely that many more people won't realize that their licenses are revoked until they need the service to find and lock their phones.”
The explanation the makers of the app offered, however, reads more like a joke: to a customer who bought his license in 2011, they replied that back then they didn't think the app would be around for very long – so “the expiration date was set after 8 years.”
Perhaps to nobody's surprise, a closer inspection of the terms and conditions published at the time makes no mention of the alleged 8-year deadline for “lifetime” licenses. Even terms for licenses bought in 2015 don't state that they will last only 8 years, and in any case, describing something with an expiration date as “lifetime” is shady in and of itself, the report suggests.
@ManuelVonau @ArtemR looks like @cerberusapp has started sending out expiration messages for licences that are less than 8 years old now pic.twitter.com/ImiVHtPL9S
— Martim Lobao (@martimlobao) December 20, 2019
But it gets worse: when free “lifetime” licenses got revoked, users were told to switch to the paid version because, “We never made, and we will never make any retroactive changes to paid licenses, so if you buy the license now it will not expire.” In addition, some customers who bought their license as recently as 2016 are now also facing expiration – meaning that not even the 8-year claim appears true.
Those customers hit by the licensing fiasco are not given an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction on the app's forums, either: “It looks like Cerberus is trying hard to ignore its disgruntled customers by shutting down threads in its support forum,” said the report.
In the past, the app had multiple issues for asking users for too many permissions, and it appears to have been removed from the Play Store – the website for Cerberus provides only direct APK downloads.