Pirates found abusing Apple Developer Enterprise Program to distribute modified apps

Angela Lang  CNET

Angela Lang CNET

Software distributors like TutuApp, Panda Help, AppValley, and TweakBox did not respond to a request to comment, Reuters said.

After Reuters initially contacted Apple for comment last week, some of the pirates were banned from the system, but within days, they were using different certificates and were operational again.

Apple, for its part, maintains that it will disable the enterprise certificates of companies found to be abusing them and remove offending distributors from the iOS Developer Program entirely if the situation calls for it.

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Apple's enterprise developer program is meant to be used as a way for companies to distribute internal apps to its employees.

Spotify declined to comment on the matter but previously said that it news terms of service would crack down on users who are "creating or distributing tools designed to block advertisement". Apple's only resource when a violation is discovered is to revoke the certificate entirely, rendering all of the apps signed by that certificate inoperable. "We are continuously evaluating the cases of misuse and are prepared to take immediate action".

Apple is also addressing the abuse of its Developer Program by two-factor authentication be turned on by the end of the month for all accounts using the service.

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Of course, part of what makes it so hard for Google and Apple to police their own stores is the sheer scale: At the end of past year, Google's Play Store featured more than 2.1m apps and Apple's App Store had more than 2m. While Apple Inc is losing revenue, its customers could, for example, stream music without ads, once they download the illicit app versions. Since these apps are not going through Apple's App Store screening, there is a higher chance they may contain malware or tracking software.

Several pirates have impersonated a subsidiary of China Mobile Ltd. For now, though, it's clear that enterprise certificates in their current state have a lot of potential for abuse, and that probably isn't something that can persist if Apple wants to keep its biggest app partners happy. TutuApp distributes Minecraft for free, a game that normally costs $6.99 in the App Store. Early on, hackers "jailbroke" iPhones by modifying their software to evade Apple's controls, but that process voided the iPhone's warranty and scared off many casual users.

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