Malware

Apple’s iOS App Store continues to host scammy, unethical apps

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A couple months ago, we covered several suspicious apps that were in Apple’s iOS App Store. One mimicked the new “Threads, an Instagram app,” and others were unethical loan apps. At the time we published the article, Apple had removed the apps following public backlash.

We wish we could tell you that the App Store was perfectly free of scammy apps, but unfortunately such is not the case.

Over the past week, several more sketchy apps have come to light. Again, some of them are illegitimate loan apps that often seem to particularly target iPhone users in India. The apps mimic the names of legitimate financial institutions, but are reported not actually connected in any way with those companies.

On August 28, a financial tech engineer named Babu posted on X (formerly Twitter) about five fraudulent loan apps that Apple had recently removed from the App Store. According to his research, the apps had been downloaded as many as half a million times over the previous eight days.

He posted again on August 31 about another loan app that masqueraded as a legitimate institution, Kirloskar.

A few hours later, Alex Kleber, an iOS scam app researcher, posted about a movie and TV show piracy app called Moshfocus that masqueraded as a to-do list utility.

Developer Kevin Archer, who had initially discovered Moshfocus’s unadvertised behavior, later posted a video and additional details about the app.

Later that same day, I became aware of a fraudulent app that abuses the name and logo of Samourai, a Bitcoin wallet app for Android that isn’t available on iOS. If you read the fine print, the lookalike app claims to be for energy monitoring—but it’s clearly trying to exploit the name, logo, and reputation of the real Samourai app. One of the panels in the App Store touts that it “takes your privacy seriously.” That isn’t very likely, given the clear ethical violations of the app’s developer.

On September 3, Babu noted that three loan-scam apps, including the aforementioned Kirloskar lookalike, were ranking higher in the App Store’s finance apps section than a legitimate investment app.

Just a few hours ago today, Babu posted about five new scam apps that were added to the App Store just this morning and were already trending.

It seems that as soon as Apple removes a few apps, more pop up shortly thereafter. Babu maintains a GitHub page with a list of fraudulent loan apps that he’s tracking.

This is most likely not a comprehensive list of scam apps currently on the App Store. Once can imagine that many more illegitimate, fraudulent, or subversive apps probably lurk unnoticed in the App Store.

The key takeaway? Be very cautious about downloading any app—even from Apple’s employee-curated App Stores.

If you come across any App Store apps that you believe may be scams, please take the time to report them to Apple. It may take several people reporting an app before Apple decides to investigate.

We hope that Apple will, at minimum, start vetting finance-related apps much more carefully than it is at present.

How can I learn more?

Be sure to check out our previous, much more in-depth reporting about the fake Threads app and unethical loan apps from July.

After backlash, Apple removes fake Threads app, unethical loan apps from App Store

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About Joshua Long

Joshua Long (@theJoshMeister), Intego's Chief Security Analyst, is a renowned security researcher, writer, and public speaker. Josh has a master's degree in IT concentrating in Internet Security and has taken doctorate-level coursework in Information Security. Apple has publicly acknowledged Josh for discovering an Apple ID authentication vulnerability. Josh has conducted cybersecurity research for more than 25 years, which has often been featured by major news outlets worldwide. Look for more of Josh's articles at security.thejoshmeister.com and follow him on Twitter/X, LinkedIn, and Mastodon. View all posts by Joshua Long →