Every app store is bound to have problems with some developers trying to be dodgy, but Apple has this week outlined some of the actions it takes to keep folks safe.
Whether you’re expecting scammers to pop up in your inbox or possibly in your phone messages, there’s one place they are gradually making their way to that you probably don’t expect, and it has a lot to do with your phone, and maybe even a tablet you might own, too.
It has to do with apps. Specifically bad apps.
Bad apps are a thing app marketplaces have to deal with, as scammers and criminals look to charge you for extra transactions, and others again seek to leave an imprint on your phone and tablet with something perhaps a little more nefarious.
It’s a problem that causes tremendous issues, with both Google and Apple spending a lot of time and resources trying to remove dodgy apps from their ecosystem, and prevent these problems from affecting the end-user, ie you.
But this week, Apple has actually explained some of what goes on behind the scenes, with a combination of human and computer coming together to ensure its App Store isn’t a place that deals in these sorts of problems.
According to the company, its App Store review program plays a big part, with more than 48,000 apps rejected in 2020 alone for containing hidden or undocumented features, while 150,000 apps were rejected because they were spam or misleading people to making a purchase. Others again have gone even further with doing dodgy things, changing how they work after they’ve been approved, offering loans, being used for drug purchases, and many more, some of which offered privacy issues.
It’s an ongoing problem, one which Apple says its ratings and review program is also combating, which itself relies on a combination of human reviews and machine learning to try to beat them down, but some of these things happen.
While much of this is bad, Apple highlights what it does to prevent fake transactions from appearing, with credit cards running through Apple Pay, but never transferred through to the developer, which in turn protects you from any possibly breaches at that card.
However it mightn’t help with apps that are legitimately approved in functionality, but cheat by forcing a transaction after a few days, basically enrolling you into a subscription simply because you had the misfortune to download it onto your device.
Called “fleeceware”, it’s a type of app that attempts to fleece you out of money by subscribing you to an overpriced payment system and charge you with what is ostensibly a bad ongoing transaction to use an otherwise mediocre app. It’s a scam of sorts, but one you may not recognise as such, because we don’t always read the fine print of apps, and expect the in-app purchases to be something you opt-in for, rather than merely happen automatically.
Avast recently highlighted how some of this can impact users with a list of fleeceware apps for iOS, easily one of the problems that can still scrape through Apple’s review system, however it’s one that Apple appears to be working on. Between offering subscription warnings in iOS to tell you a charge is about to happen (which you can cancel in your iPhone or iPad settings for your user ID) and noting that it’s working on dealing with fraudulent reviews using machine learning that might boost the presence of these apps, Apple is trying to deal with these problems.
Avast’s report noted the fleeceware problem wasn’t just limited to iOS, mind you, with Android dealing with the same problem on its store. One of the problems with in-app purchases is that anyone can take advantage with a subscription model, so it’s not just Apple facing this scourge, but rather anyone with an app marketplace, it seems. That includes Google, with the security company offering a list of Android fleeceware apps, as well.
Apple’s ongoing attempts to deal with these problems is what the company says makes it a trusted place for app users and developers, with numerous processes in place to help the App Store be what it is today. However, the company notes that if you find an app that you believe is problematic, you can always contact Apple support using the “Report a Problem” feature to tell them what to look at, because something nefarious may squeak through.