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Apple’s ‘Secure’ app store comes under fire for scam apps

Apple’s legal arguments against the perceived dangers of third-party app stores are undermined by the abundance of counterfeit apps. Drapkin, Aaron. Security researchers have warned Mac users about programs available on the App Store that force people to pay subscription fees by blocking keyboard shortcuts and making the menu bar unavailable in recent days.

The app in question – My Metronome – has now been removed from the App Store. Edoardo Vacchi, chief software engineer at Red Hat, first pointed out the app’s shady tactics on April 12, with security researcher and fierce Apple critic Kosta Eleftheriou sounding the alarm on Twitter shortly after. . As Eleftheriou explains, the app “immediately asks you for money” — a $9.99 subscription fee — and then removes your ability to quit the app by disabling hotkeys and rendering the toolbar Mac menus inaccessible.

The main culprit in this case – an app called My Metronome – is no longer available for download – but it’s unclear whether it was removed by the developer or by Apple themselves. This kind of report does not bode well for Apple. The safety and security that comes with Apple’s App Store in general – as well as the company’s app development program – has been exploited by Apple to thwart legal attempts to force the company to host third-party apps.

It must be said that it is possible to force close the application, but anyone trying to evade paying the subscription fee may not know how to do it, or even that it is a way to defeat their supposedly “locked” screen. My Metronome isn’t the only app that has been caught trying to scam users. In fact, the company that created My Metronome has developed at least one other app that effectively prevents you from leaving without subscribing.

Last year, The Washington Post discovered that of the App Store’s top 1,000 apps, about 2% were scams — and they brought in a combined total of $48 million through downloads and in-app purchases. These statistics are not at all surprising considering that users have only been able to report apps on the App Store since October 2021.

“The 74th highest-grossing app in the Mac App Store is an audio editor with a $125 per year subscription and a 1.9 out of 5 rating,” Jeff Johnson tweeted. In the same thread, Johnson identified several other apps that advertise themselves as free, which once downloaded require a one-time in-app purchase to work.

Fraudulent apps undermine Apple’s legal case. Apple’s app review guidelines clearly state that “apps that attempt to defraud users will be removed from the App Store”, which includes “apps that attempt to trick users into purchasing a subscription under false pretenses”. Additionally, last year the company tightened its App Store guidelines by confirming that it would terminate the accounts of developers who violate the Developer Code of Conduct.

Exactly why apps like My Metronome were allowed to run amok is therefore unclear. The existence of such apps appears to undermine a line of arguments that Apple has pushed to maintain its power in the app market and prevent the creation and availability of third-party app stores on iOS – which app stores Apple’s macOS and iOS apps are safer and more secure than anything else.

“Allowing sideloading would degrade the security of the iOS platform and expose users to serious security risks not only on third-party app stores, but also on the App Store,” Apple said in a statement l last year, released in light of the pressure in both the US and the UK to demonopolize technology platforms. The EU Digital Markets Act includes a proposal to give consumers the freedom to download third-party apps onto their computing devices, including iPhones and other Apple products. If it wins massive support from EU members – which commentators suggest – it could become law as early as October this year.

Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has researched and written about technology, politics and society in print and online publications since graduating with a degree in philosophy from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron has a particular interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Mail, Computer Weekly and Silicon Republic speaking out on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has published articles in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week and Politics.co. UK covering a wide range of topics.

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