Here’s why Apple just gave millions of iPhone and iPad users a reason to leave

Apple IPhone iPad

Earlier this week a serious warning was issuedto every iPhone and iPad user, and now new revelations from within Apple itself may have just given you a reason to walk away.



Compounding news that the App Store has a serious problem with fleeceware (apps designed to trick money from users), a senior Apple engineer has been quoted admitting App Store security is grossly inadequate and leaves iPhone and iPad users dangerously exposed to scams. Moreover, new research shows this problem is far worse on iOS than Android.

The revelations were outed in new legal documents released as part of the ongoing court case between Apple and Epic Games:

“A senior Apple engineer compared the defences of its App Store against malicious actors to “bringing a plastic butter knife to a gunfight”, according to legal documents released on Thursday,” states the Financial Times. “The anecdote, which was cited by Fortnite maker Epic Games ahead of a high-stakes antitrust trial in California next month, was based on internal Apple documents quoting Eric Friedman, head of the company’s Fraud Engineering Algorithms and Risk (Fear) unit.

In the papers, Friedman also likened Apple’s process of reviewing new apps for the App Store to “more like the pretty lady who greets you… at the Hawaiian airport than the drug-sniffing dog”. He added that Apple was ill-equipped to “deflect sophisticated attackers”.

Epic Games is using these revelations to argue against the 30% fees Apple charges developers for the safety it claims the App Store provides, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. In a separate report, cybersecurity company Avasthas revealed that there is almost twice the amount of fleeceware in the App Store compared to Google’s Play Store and it harvests 10x the revenue from users:

“In total, the team found 134 fleeceware apps on the App Store that have been downloaded a combined 500 million times. Sensor Tower estimates indicate that the apps have made $365 million in revenue. The same data indicates that 70 fleeceware apps on the Google Play Store… brought in $38.5 million in revenue.”



Both the statement from Friedman and Avast report add wider context to tweets earlier this week by developer Kosta Elefherious, who argued it was easy for app makers to skirt App Store regulations and scam iPhone and iPad owners using Apple’s own in-app purchasing system. Elefherious reported fleeceware copies of his own apps entered the App Store multiple times and even tweeted a thread on “How to spot a $5M/year scam on the @AppStore, in 5 minutes flat”.

Both the statement from Friedman and Avast report add wider context to tweets earlier this week by developer Kosta Elefherious, who argued it was easy for app makers to skirt App Store regulations and scam iPhone and iPad owners using Apple’s own in-app purchasing system. Elefherious reported fleeceware copies of his own apps entered the App Store multiple times and even tweeted a thread on “How to spot a $5M/year scam on the @AppStore, in 5 minutes flat”.

For fleeceware developers, scamming users seemingly requires nothing more complicated than paying for thousands of fake positive reviews (which drown out the angry comments from victims) then installing copious misleading in-app purchase options which can cost thousands of dollars per year. When you tune into it, these fleeceware apps are remarkably easy to spot and even when reported to Apple, they can remain live months later.



For years, Apple has marketed the superior greater security of its products (and the App Store in particular) compared to rivals and fans have long been prepared to pay the company’s premium prices to benefit from it. Unless serious changes are made, however, that time might be coming to an end.

I have contacted Apple and will update this post if I receive a response.

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