Apple’s App Store is rife with scam apps, says a new report.
“Of the highest 1,000 grossing apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams,” The Washington Post reported yesterday (June 6), based on analysis conducted by its reporters. “Those apps have bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million during the time they’ve been on the App Store.”
Among the worst offenders were three VPN apps, which promised more secure internet connections but delivered “scareware” ads designed to frighten people into buying fake iPhone antivirus software, and a QR-code reader that charges $5 per week for a function that’s already built into iOS. There were also three suspect dating apps.
“Apple profits from these apps because it takes a cut of up to a 30 percent of all revenue generated through the App Store,” said the Post, which is owned by Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos.
Of the 18 apps that The Post reported to Apple as scams, 12 had been removed by the time of the Post story’s publication.
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 right before Apple’s WWDC 2021 conference, at which the company is expected to unveil iOS 15, macOS 12 and possibly new hardware. This is also two weeks after testimony concluded in the Epic Games vs. Apple vs. civil trial, during which Apple’s tight control of the App Store was scrutinized. A decision in the case is expected later this year.
Apple insists that its firm control over the App Store is necessary to protect users from malicious apps. There’s no denying that the effort’s been largely successful. Over the iPhone’s 14-year existence, the number of “in the wild” instances of iOS malware has barely cracked double digits. Contrast that with Google’s Play Store for Android, in which 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. One software developer told the Post he paid $19 for an iPhone app in the App Store that said it was a remote control for a Samsung TV set, but the app turned out to be fake.