Pirated iOS apps are being distributed through Apple's enterprise developer program

Yolanda Curtis
February 15, 2019

The distributors of pirated apps are using certificates obtained in the name of legitimate businesses.

Software pirates have gotten in on the action as well, distributing "hacked versions of Spotify, Angry Birds, Pokemon Go, Minecraft and other popular apps on iPhones", according to a Reuters report late Wednesday.

Apple could be facing major monetary loss due to activity of software pirates who have hijacked the required technology to distribute apps like Angry Birds, Pokemon Go, Minecraft and Spotify. Apple originally introduced its enterprise certificates to let companies make business apps for employees, without going through the App Store.

TutuApp, Panda Helper, AppValley and TweakBox did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Minecraft, on the other hand, is offered for free by these distributors, while it costs $6.99 to download from the App Store. AppValley offers a hacked version of Spotify that removes all advertisements, a feature that Spotify Premium subscribers usually have to pay up to $10 a month for.

Apple recently sent out an e-mail to all registered developers advising them that, as of February 27, two-factor authentication will be required on all Apple Developer accounts and Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles. It is impossible to know how many users buy such subscriptions, but the pirate distributors combined have more than 600,000 followers on Twitter.

Apple has no way of tracking the real-time distribution of these certificates, or the spread of improperly modified apps on its phones, but it can cancel the certificates if it finds misuse.

A by Techcrunch released just this week uncovered dozens of pornography and gambling apps - the type of software which would never make it into the official App Store - being distributed through Apple's enterprise developer program.

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 a year ago, Google's Play Store featured more than 2.1m apps and Apple's App Store had more than 2m.

Some of the pirate developers were banned by Apple last week, but were reportedly back up again within days using different certificates.

Recent reports have revealed that Apple's Developer Enterprise program has been rife with abuse, ranging from invasive spyware created by two of the world's largest tech companies to an underground hotbed of porn and gambling apps. This will come into effect this month, and could help crack down on this kind of enterprise certificate abuse.

Other reports by iNewsToday