Pirates reportedly use Apple certs to release hacked apps on iPhone

Pirates reportedly use Apple certs to release hacked apps on iPhone

The distributors of pirated apps seen by Reuters are using certificates obtained in the name of legitimate businesses, although it is unclear how. Apple offers those enterprise certificates so businesses can test apps internally without having to publish them to the App Store first, so obviously, the way Facebook and Google were using them doesn't really line up with their intended goal.

Once a certificate was acquired it was often used by multiple unrelated publishers. The nature of the program, which is designed exclusively to allow large companies to deploy in-house apps to their employees, relies on direct distribution of apps.

Following last month's revelations that Fb and Google have been utilizing Apple's enterprise developer program to bypass the App Store and gather analytics from collaborating customers, TechCrunch now reviews that dozens of pornography and playing apps are abusing this system as effectively. First it was revealed that both Facebook and Google were using enterprise certificates to deliver data-collecting apps to iPhone users.

Apple's once-innocuous enterprise certificates have been in the news a lot lately.

The altered versions of Spotify, Angry Birds, Pokemon Go and Minecraft make paid features available for free and remove in-app ads, according to Reuters, sucking revenue away from the app developers and Apple.

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The worldwide gross app revenue of the Apple App Store equalled $38.7 billion (2017) and $46.6 billion (2018).

Some of the most popular iOS apps are being pirated using Apple's very own developer program. Microsoft Corp, which owns the hit game Minecraft, also declined to a request to comment.

Piracy of legitimate iOS apps is not at all new - it goes back to the very early days of the App Store - however in the past it's traditionally required users to jailbreak their iPhones in order to side load completely unsigned apps.

For example, the pirated Spotify blocks the ads that normally play when you listen with a free subscription and you can play the altered Minecraft for free (it normally costs $7 in the App Store). Security researchers have long warned about the misuse of enterprise developer certificates, which act as digital keys that tell an iPhone a piece of software downloaded from the Internet can be trusted and opened.

They are the centrepiece of Apple's programme for corporate apps and enable consumers to install apps onto iPhones without Apple's knowledge.

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