Apple approval process fails to stop fake Camera+ app

Jan 24, 2012
Tech

For all the effort Apple expends in regulating its iTunes App Store, it seems that questionable, malicious or copyright-infringing apps make it through to consumers a lot more often than one might think. The latest app to appear in the App Store that didn’t belong is a copy of the popular Camera+ app. Claiming to […]

For all the effort Apple expends in regulating its iTunes App Store, it seems that questionable, malicious or copyright-infringing apps make it through to consumers a lot more often than one might think. The latest app to appear in the App Store that didn’t belong is a copy of the popular Camera+ app.

Claiming to be Camera+ version 4.0, the app made its way into the App Store this week and was spotted by U.K. security firm Sophos, which was able to determine that the app was a fake, according to Computer World. Sophos was unable to download it and determine if it was a delivery system for malware, however, which is something that is often seen in fake or otherwise untrustworthy apps that make it into the App Store or into Google’s Android Market for its Android operating system.

The real Camera+ is created by developer Tap Tap Tap and currently is in version 2.4. While it’s unclear if there was malware involved in the fake version of the app, which was released by a company called Pursuit Special, Sophos and Tap Tap Tap think the purpose it was released was to trick users into thinking it was the real deal and syphon money from the popularity of Camera+.

Camera+ and Tap Tap Tap have run afoul of Apple’s app review process in the past. In 2010 after the app’s release, Apple bounced it from the app store for a developer agreement violation when it discovered that Camera+ accessed the iPhone’s volume control button to use as a shutter button. Third-party apps aren’t allowed to access the iPhone’s hardware buttons, and that resulted in the app’s ban. Tap Tap Tap fixed the issue and was restored to the App Store, but it seems as though the incident generated a little resentment between the two companies.

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There have been plenty of other incidents when apps have made their way into the App Store when they should have rightly been denied. Last year, Apple added copyright infringement as a reason it could reject apps from the App Store, after some pretty public stories in which games made it onto Apple’s platform by basically making knock-off versions of popular games on other platforms. One game took the assets of titles such as The Blocks Cometh and League of Evil to create a knock-off Blocks Cometh release. The reason for that seemed to be the same as for Camera+ – the app maker wanted to use an established name to make some money.

Nobody knows exactly what Apple’s review process actually entails, and there are so many apps in the App Store that it’s tough to know how many are legitimate and how many aren’t, or how many troublemakers get screened out. But incidents like this raise questions and make it tough on developers. Apple seems to do a pretty good job preventing things like the fake Camera+ app from making their way into its store, but with so many developers depending on iOS apps to make a living, creeping fake apps like this one can be worrisome.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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