Apple’s App Store is rife with rogue apps, says a new report.
“Of the 1,000 top-earning apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams,” El Washington Post reported yesterday (June 6), based on the analysis made by its reporters. “Those apps have scammed consumers out of an estimated $ 48 million during their time on the App Store.”
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Among the worst offenders were three VPN apps, which promised safer Internet connections but offered “scareware” ads designed to scare people into buying fake iPhone antivirus software, and a QR code reader that charges $ 5 per week for a feature that’s already built in. iOS. There were also three suspicious dating apps.
“Apple benefits from these applications because it takes a share of up to 30 percent of all revenue generated through the App Store,” said the Post, which is owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
Of the 18 apps that The Post reported to Apple as scams, 12 had been removed by the time the Post’s story was published.
Although Apple now has a Mac App Store for its desktop and laptop apps, the Post’s story focused on iOS apps. It analyzed the top 1,000 apps as reported by Apple on April 21.
The Post’s report comes just ahead of Apple’s WWDC 2021 conference, in which the company is expected to introduce iOS 15, macOS 12, and possibly new hardware. This is also two weeks after testimony in the Epic Games vs. Apple vs. civil, during which Apple’s strict control over the App Store was examined. A decision on the case is expected later this year.
Apple insists that its firm control over the App Store is necessary to protect users from malicious applications. It cannot be denied that the effort has been highly successful. During the 14 years of the iPhone’s existence, the number of “in the wild” instances of iOS malware has barely reached double digits. Compare that to Google’s Play Store for Android, where hundreds of malicious apps are discovered every year.
It doesn’t have to be malware to be malicious
But scams don’t have to be malware. A software developer told the Post that he paid $ 19 for an iPhone app on the App Store that said it was a remote control for a Samsung TV, but that the app turned out to be a fake.
The software developer told the Post that he assumed that any app on the App Store had to be genuine, because it would have been reviewed by Apple.
“If people believe or are not worried about being scammed, then there will be a lot of victimization,” an economics professor told the Post. (The app wasn’t one of 18 the Post found on its own.)
That application, called «Smart stuff: Smart View app, ‘Was still on the App Store today (June 7). It states »Remotely control your Samsung Smart TV«, as well as »Stream media files from Dropbox and Google Drive« and »Find and stream your favorite music tracks«, among other functions.
The app is free to download, but then charges weekly, monthly, and yearly subscription fees starting at $ 1.99. A “lifetime” subscription is available for $ 19.99. The listed developer, TV Cast Company Ltd., also creates apps claiming to be remote controls for Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, and LG and Vizio TVs (spelled “Vizo”).
Seven similar apps created by the same company can be found on the Google Play Store for Android. There is no contact information, nor much information of any kind, on the TV Cast company’s website, https://tvcast.in/. Website domain name registration information blocked.
In a separate Twitter thread yesterday, the Mac and iOS software developer Jeff Johnson He said that the App Store is a perfect hunting ground for scammers.
“Anything about the App Store that supposedly makes it easier for developers to reach and sell to customers makes scams easier,” Johnson wrote. “In fact, it is easier for scams than for honest developers, because the latter will not buy ratings, fake reviews, write misleading descriptions, manipulate keywords, etc.”
I don’t think most people understand the economics of scams. Everything about the App Store that supposedly makes it easier for developers to reach out and sell to customers makes scams easier. In fact, it is easier for scams than for honest developers, because the latter will not buy counterfeits.June 6, 2021
“We demand high standards from developers to maintain the App Store as a safe and reliable place for customers to download software, and we will always take action against applications that cause harm to users,” an Apple spokesperson told the Post.
Tom’s Guide has also contacted Apple for comment, and we will update this story when we get a response.