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-   -   Fake apps infiltrate Apple iTunes App Store, shill reviews persist (http://forums.macnn.com/112/mac-news/501196/fake-apps-infiltrate-apple-itunes-app/)

 
NewsPoster Jun 5, 2013 07:29 AM
Fake apps infiltrate Apple iTunes App Store, shill reviews persist
If you thought that you were immune from being duped into downloading a fake app on the Apple iTunes App Store, think again. Apple users have often mocked Android fan boys about the number of <a href="http://macnn.com/rd/287034== http://www.electronista.com/articles/13/05/15/drives.developers.to.freemium.model.hurts.platform/" rel='nofollow'>fake apps and other malware</a> that have been discovered on the Google Android Market/Google Play. They have also argued that although Apple's App Store approval process can be frustrating for developers, at least it's done in the best interest of users who can shop on the store taking comfort in the knowledge that the app has been properly vetted. This, it seems, is an illusion.<br />
<br />
As a long-time user of the iTunes App Store, I have downloaded many apps (795 truth be told!). On 794 previous occasions, I've never encountered any issues. The apps have generally all worked as advertised, with some being more interesting and useful than others. Many I no longer use, but a number have also been downloaded for my kids and my wife. I honestly thought that I would never see the day where I would download a fake app from the iTunes App Store, but have always exercised much more caution when downloading Android apps. But the fateful day arrived on the weekend, when I was duped into downloading a fake app that was also replete with several shill reviews.<br />
<br />
Shill reviews have been an ongoing problem on the iTunes App Store. Apple has previously banned developers who have been caught having shill reviews falsely promoting their apps. In one instance in 2009, Apple removed 1000 apps from one Chinese developer who's falsely promoted apps found their way climbing up the app charts. One of the apps, embarrassingly for Apple, even found its way into the 'Staff Picks' section of the iTunes App Store. However, here we are in 2013 and shill reviews still persist, as my screenshots embedded below attest to.<br />
<br />
However, while Apple hasn't seemed to find a way to put an end to shill reviews distorting buyer choices on the App Store, I did not think that a fake app, with fake icons and fake screenshots would slip through Apple's app approval process. The developer even managed to get the 'Gamelofts' publisher name past Apple too! If I had seen the app on my iMac, I might have worked out something was amiss. However, I purchased what I thought was the popular <em>Trials Evolution</em> series dirt bike stunt game from my iPad, which gives a slightly different view of the app, which it is also not conducive to seeing all the reviews on an app at a glance. When the app launched, I was genuinely shocked to discover that it was a scam.<br />
<br />
If it was just the one app, it could simply be marked down as an aberration. However, on checking, I discovered that there were two fake apps successfully published by this unscrupulous developer to the App Store - the second was a fake 'Grid 2' app. How both apps made it through Apple's app approval process remains a mystery, and a serious concern. One was approved and published on the 9th of May this year, while the other was approved and published on the 15th of May. MacNN has reached out to Apple for comment, but Apple, as is often its want, has chosen to remain silent on the matter. It has, however, promptly removed the apps from the App Store and presumably, banned the 'developer.'<br />
<br />
Without an official statement from Apple, it can only speculated as to how these apps made it through its app approval process. As the 'apps' were approved at different times, it is disconcerting to think that they had passed through two separate approval processes. If this was indeed the case, it then raises the possibilty that Apple is not actually vetting each and every app that reaches the App Store. It may be that it has moved to a more random vetting approach (if it ever actually did vet each and every app) simply because of the volume of apps that developers submit for approval is too much for it to handle. <br />
<br />
Whatever actually transpired, it has certainly shattered my confidence in Apple's App Store approval process. Until Apple publicly addresses the matter with a statement on how it plans to address the ongoing issue of shill reviews, and how it will stop fake apps from ever reaching the App Store again, my faith in the iTunes App Store will not be restored. We will update this story with Apple's response to our enquiry, should it see fit to provide one.<br />
<br />
By Sanjiv Sathiah<br />
 
yticolev Jun 5, 2013 08:32 AM
Did you request and receive a refund? And no, it is not possible to see anything on your screen shots even expanded, not shill reviews, or anything about the games. But it sounds like Apple is working, the first person to buy the app complained and had it removed.
 
DiabloConQueso Jun 5, 2013 08:39 AM
So, two fake apps and Apple's App Store is no better than the Android Marketplace? They've been wholly "infiltrated?" Confidence has been definitively shattered?

I may be downplaying the problem, but not nearly to the degree that this article inflates and exaggerates the issue. Straw men and hyperbole don't for a convincing article make.
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 09:01 AM
@ DiabloConQueso:

I agree with you. With each passing day, MacNN becomes increasingly anti-Apple. At times, they post more news about Android than Apple. MacNN has truly lost its way.
 
Spheric Harlot Jun 5, 2013 09:31 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233410)
@ DiabloConQueso:

I agree with you. With each passing day, MacNN becomes increasingly anti-Apple. At times, they post more news about Android than Apple. MacNN has truly lost its way.
I'm sorry, but that is complete bullshit. There just happens to be a lot more tech news about Android than about Apple.

This particular piece is just bad opinion writing by a relatively inexperienced author (as other confusing turns of word and construction, as well as typos and missing words would seem to indicate).

Take it as an editorial, disagree with the alarmist conclusion, and move on.
 
lkrupp Jun 5, 2013 09:40 AM
The solution is quite simple, actually. Stop reading user reviews. Assume every review is a shill because... they are. This has always been the Achilles heel of the Internet. For a prime example just look at the release of the iPhone in 2007. Before the device was even in consumer's hands the negative reviews by anonymous posters claiming to have access to one were all over the place.

In my opinion there are very few legitimate user reviews. User reviews usually consist of paid shills either for or against the product, unpaid shills (fanboys either for or against the companies involved), or users who don't know what they are talking about.
 
Gazoobee Jun 5, 2013 10:23 AM
The weakness in the approval process is obvious when you consider how Apple has stated that the approval process works. *Individuals* look at the apps, and all it takes is for that individual to not know about a particular publisher, or not know the name is stolen.

I've seen quite a few articles of this same type and format over the years where the author says essentially, "how could they not know?" but in fact what we are talking about is specialised individual knowledge. Without a list of "real" developers and game titles to check each one against (clearly not part of the process), it's down to individual knowledge on issues like this.
 
SierraDragon Jun 5, 2013 10:41 AM
"...it has certainly shattered my confidence..." at finding 2 lame apps is sensationalistic yellow journalism by a childish author.
 
qazwart Jun 5, 2013 11:17 AM
I just checked and neither of those apps are in the app store. You can request a refund, and you will probably get one. One app looks like it is 99 cents. I can't read the price of the other.

What makes these "fake apps"? Probably because they disguised themselves as games made by other companies, and because they were probably poorly made imitations. There are a lot of bad apps in the App Store, but at least none of them as far as we know will attempt to empty your bank account.

With almost a million apps in the App Store, it would be impossible for everyone at Apple to know all games products from all companies. The person who reviewed this app for Apple wasn't necessarily looking for quality fo the app. They are mainly interested if the App followed the guidelines set forth. It looks like once Apple was alerted that this app was a counterfeit, and the fake reviews, the app was pulled.

The reviews would have been a tip off in both games. Grid2's average review showed an average of 1 star. I bet if you read those one star reviews, you would see people warning you that this was a fake app. The other is trickier. The average review was 4 stars. However, I did notice that all of the reviews were either five stars or a single star -- a sign of something fishy going on. And, if you read those one star reviews, you would probably see a lot of people warning you this is a fake app.

I'm sorry about your experience. Out of 780+ downloads, and you only hit two bad ones. That's a pretty good record over all. Apple has been taking steps to improve things. They ban developers and monitor comments. Bad apps will go through. Fake apps will make it through on occasion. According to your own statistics, it's about .025% of all submitted apps. That's a pretty good rate considering the growth of the store.

Ask for a refund, and see if you get it. If you don't get one, you will have something to complain about. If either of these apps start to drain your bank account, you'll have a real story. What you have now is a bad buying experience that happened once out of 780 times. I wish my record on Amazon was that good. However, Amazon has an excellent refund policy and that's why I still use them. I know they'll do their best to make things right.

Bad actors are attracted to places where there is a lot of money. According to legend, notorious bank robber Willie Sutton was ask why he robbed banks, he replied "That's where the money is." It's the reason why thousands of scum developers write fake apps for the App Store.
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 11:57 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by SierraDragon (Post 4233421)
"...it has certainly shattered my confidence..." at finding 2 lame apps is sensationalistic yellow journalism by a childish author.
Or, opinion.

That this is an editorial is crystal clear to me. For one, he personalizes things rather than attempting to represent MacNN.
 
Jeronimo2000 Jun 5, 2013 12:02 PM
MacNN, please - stop trying to become a "real" media outlet and stick to what you did best for the last couple of years: rehash press releases and copy other people's news.

You just don't have proper journalists that actually know how to write a good article (just look at this amateurish piece of junk published above). So, maybe just don't bother.
 
b9bot Jun 5, 2013 01:25 PM
Oooh, two apps turn out to be bad and suddenly the App store is totally unsafe? Talk about over kill and sensationalism. Yes Apple reviews many thousands of Apps. But yes sometimes a rogue app or an app that has features that Apple does not permit gets by. But most of the time Apple finds these that do get by and take them down as quickly as they find them. And yes, you can get a refund so to put it simply this article exaggerates over the top about the level of safety. Go to the Android store and absolutely ZERO apps are looked at for anything. They are just thrown up on there store for whomever to buy and find out if it works or is part of the 99.9% malware that the Android store is today. So you think two apps is scary?
Try the whole Android store!
 
Grendelmon Jun 5, 2013 01:36 PM
Haha
Quote, Originally Posted by Jeronimo2000 (Post 4233434)
MacNN, please - stop trying to become a "real" media outlet and stick to what you did best for the last couple of years: rehash press releases and copy other people's news.

That's gotta sting... but then again- the truth hurts.
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 02:39 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot (Post 4233412)
I'm sorry, but that is complete bullshit. There just happens to be a lot more tech news about Android than about Apple.

This particular piece is just bad opinion writing by a relatively inexperienced author (as other confusing turns of word and construction, as well as typos and missing words would seem to indicate).

Take it as an editorial, disagree with the alarmist conclusion, and move on.
Which part do you find to be bullshit? If they want to post Android news, shouldn't they make an AndroidNN site?
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 02:51 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233463)
Which part do you find to be bullshit? If they want to post Android news, shouldn't they make an AndroidNN site?

Maybe some members here aren't interested in Apple-only blinders? Maybe there isn't enough Apple-only news to draw the traffic needed here to sustain the unworthy/lacking journalism that for some reason compels so many readers to continue to digest and complain about?
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 03:10 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by besson3c (Post 4233466)
Maybe some members here aren't interested in Apple-only blinders? Maybe there isn't enough Apple-only news to draw the traffic needed here to sustain the unworthy/lacking journalism that for some reason compels so many readers to continue to digest and complain about?
I can't speak for others, but when I go to a "Mac" site, I'm looking for Mac and/or Apple related info. I don't care to read a review on an HTC phone.
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 03:33 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233469)
I can't speak for others, but when I go to a "Mac" site, I'm looking for Mac and/or Apple related info. I don't care to read a review on an HTC phone.

When was the last time there was an HTC review here?

Noteworthy Android, Windows, and other industry news is Apple related to all but the Apple fanatics that have zero interest in anything outside of the Apple bubble.
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 03:40 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by besson3c (Post 4233472)
When was the last time there was an HTC review here?

Noteworthy Android, Windows, and other industry news is Apple related to all but the Apple fanatics that have zero interest in anything outside of the Apple bubble.
Review - HTC One Review | MacNN

I'm not saying I have zero interest in anything outside of Apple news, but MacNN has posted far too many things that have absolutely nothing to do with Apple.
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 03:52 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233473)
Review - HTC One Review | MacNN

I'm not saying I have zero interest in anything outside of Apple news, but MacNN has posted far too many things that have absolutely nothing to do with Apple.

Ahhh, I only get my MacNN news from the Newsposter bot, maybe I missed this.

I would say that the fake apps editorial (perhaps a better written version of it) would be fair game though if presented as a discussion point rather than news.
 
Spheric Harlot Jun 5, 2013 04:08 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233463)
Which part do you find to be bullshit? If they want to post Android news, shouldn't they make an AndroidNN site?
The part about them being "anti-Apple".

"Anti" does not mean "not"; it means "Against". If you're claiming that, it's bullshit.
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 04:15 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot (Post 4233479)
The part about them being "anti-Apple".

"Anti" does not mean "not"; it means "Against". If you're claiming that, it's bullshit.
Yes, that's exactly what I'm claiming. Perhaps, your interpretations are different from mine, but I have been reading increasingly what I view as anti-Apple sentiment on MacNN for some time now. If you're claiming there hasn't been any, that's bullshit.
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 04:46 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233481)
Yes, that's exactly what I'm claiming. Perhaps, your interpretations are different from mine, but I have been reading increasingly what I view as anti-Apple sentiment on MacNN for some time now. If you're claiming there hasn't been any, that's bullshit.

What if there is an anti-Apple sentiment, so what? Does this place have to be limited to the religious converts?
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 04:50 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by besson3c (Post 4233488)
What if there is an anti-Apple sentiment, so what? Does this place have to be limited to the religious converts?
It does not, but I do like to see accurate facts. It's when MacNN's authors start giving opinions in their "news" that bothers me.
 
besson3c Jun 5, 2013 04:55 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233490)
It does not, but I do like to see accurate facts. It's when MacNN's authors start giving opinions in their "news" that bothers me.

No argument from me that opinion should be labeled accordingly, but I don't mind it existing so long as it has been labeled accordingly.
 
Spheric Harlot Jun 5, 2013 05:08 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by chefpastry (Post 4233481)
Yes, that's exactly what I'm claiming. Perhaps, your interpretations are different from mine, but I have been reading increasingly what I view as anti-Apple sentiment on MacNN for some time now. If you're claiming there hasn't been any, that's bullshit.
Only among the commentors, and blahblahbber's been banned.
 
Sanjiv Sathiah Jun 5, 2013 05:16 PM
A footnote:

Hi guys,

As the author of this article, I thought I'd respond to some of the comments that have been posted in response to it. I fully expect Apple fanboys to attack me personally for writing an 'anti-Apple' story - that's par for the course. But it does not change the fact that there is an implicit assumption in the public comments of senior Apple execs that 'this sort of thing doesn't happen on the iTunes App Store,' but is the sole preserve of the Android app experience. The simple fact of the matter is this: even if this is an aberration, it simply should not have happened.

It only takes one bad customer experience to completely reorient a person's perspective towards a company. I live a very Apple-centred life and have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on Apple gear throughout my life. In my view, Apple offers a far better overall consumer experience than Windows and Android. However, it is not immune from criticism, and when it gets it wrong, it serves no one by pretending that everything that Apple touches turns to gold.

Cheers,
Sanjiv
 
chefpastry Jun 5, 2013 05:45 PM
A few slipped by the gatekeeper, who then quickly corrected the situation. Does this put the AppStore on the same level as the Android Market?
 
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