Apple steps up commitment to fight fraud in App Store

Mar 19, 2012
Tech

New security threats and instances of fraud in Apple’s iTunes App Store have caused the company to commit to work on raising security measures in the online portal. According to a report from The New York Times, a wave of fraud reports are sweeping through App Store accounts, with thousands of users lodging online complaints […]

New security threats and instances of fraud in Apple’s iTunes App Store have caused the company to commit to work on raising security measures in the online portal.

According to a report from The New York Times, a wave of fraud reports are sweeping through App Store accounts, with thousands of users lodging online complaints with Apple claiming that they’ve received App Store charges for things they haven’t purchased. More than 100 people took to Twitter to complain about such fraud just in the last week, the NYT story states, with one user claiming his account was billed more than $437 in in-app purchases he didn’t make.

As Fierce Mobile Content points out, fraud against users isn’t the only way that the less-than-honest are using the App Store to make money. Various developers have been dealing with App Store rip-offs of their games for years, with carbon-copy apps appearing in the store and lifting the originals’ art assets and more. For other developers, there’s a constant war against fake apps that attempt to use a popular app’s name to confuse and trick buyers looking for the real deal. That sort of thing happened (and continues to happen) with the popular Temple Run, which has seen imitators such as Temple Jump attempting to syphon sales with knock-offs.

There are other troubles with fraud in the App Store as well, such as some developers and publishers using fake downloads to artificially boost their rankings on Apple’s App Store charts. Apple said in a statement that it would be working to shore up security in its App Store on all these fronts, and urged users experiencing issues with the payment system, or any sort of suspicious activity, to report them to their financial institutions immediately.

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Apple’s App Store just blew past the 25 billion download mark, and currently houses better than 550,000 iOS apps – so some fishiness with copied apps and fakes is bound to occur. And the unfortunate consequence of Apple’s success is that it makes the iTunes App Store and the iOS ecosystem in general a pretty big target. Hackers and scam artists are attracted to working on the iPhone and iPad for the same reason as legitimate developers – it’s a market filled with users in which they can make money.

But any improvements Apple can bring to its walled garden’s security should be welcome, because while Apple’s App Store is huge and expansive, it’s pretty well defined by Apple’s control. That has its benefits, like making it easy for developers to make their apps work for all of Apple’s mobile devices, and those benefits should apply to security as well. After all, if developers and customers have to play by Apple’s rules, they should at least be able to expect Apple to enforce those rules and protect the ecosystem. Hopefully the one benefit that will come out of such security issues is greater dedication to eliminating them on Apple’s side.

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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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