Hundreds of fake iPhone apps make it onto Apple’s App Store

Apple’s App Store has been flooded with hundreds of fake retail and product apps creating a huge security and financial risk to iPhone users.

The apps, including bogus retail chains such as Foot Locker, department store Nordstrom and luxury brands Jimmy Choo and Christian Dior, have mostly been developed in China.

It appears the apps were able to avoid Apple’s app-reviewing process, which occurs prior to the apps going live, and which purportedly aims to prevent counterfeits making their way onto the Store.

While some apps seem to be harmless, others require bank details or Facebook logins, exposing users’ financial and personal information. Some of the fakes also contain malware to steal personal information or have the ability to lock the users’ phone unless a ransom is paid.

The tech giant has so far removed hundreds of apps from the Store after media attention of the issue, yet thousands of the fake apps have already been downloaded.

“We strive to offer customers the best experience possible, and we take their security very seriously,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told the New York Times.

“We’ve set up ways for customers and developers to flag fraudulent or suspicious apps, which we promptly investigate to ensure the App Store is safe and secure. We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”

Counterfeit apps are not a new problem. Google, with its Android platform, has experienced a number of fake apps over the years as a result of lower levels of app scrutiny compared with Apple. Furthermore, sales via mobile devices are a growing market, jumping 56 per cent last years to become a market worth $49.2bn, which is attracting counterfeiters.

For Apple, counterfeit apps is an issue that has increased over the summer as more counterfeiters turn to social media and become increasingly sophisticated in their processes.

For instance, counterfeiters are crafty and will continually seek out loop holes, such as changing content after the app has been reviewed and approved or making multiple submissions using different credentials to increase the chances of getting through.

Some of the fakes are for brands and stores that don’t have genuine iPhone apps but others are for brands and stores that already have an established app presence. Some apps have been found to use Apple’s new paid search ads to buy search terms to help promote the fake apps in the App Store.

The NYT cited one example where a fake app selling Ugg boots called itself Overstock Inc, masquerading as the genuine brand, and which was nearly identical to another fake app that had already been removed from the site. Both apps were developed in China.

Many of the fake apps can be identified via spelling mistakes and missing information, such as contact details, or incorrect details, such as phoney addresses or slight twists on brand names. Negative customer reviews, by users who have already been scammed, can also highlight whether the app is legit or not.

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