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Apple bans hundreds of App Store apps after they were found to be spying on users

The special software allowed people to look in on phones — and developers might not even have known it was there

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 20 October 2015 10:01 BST
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Apple's App Store recent ran a special promotion to coincide with World Aids Day
Apple's App Store recent ran a special promotion to coincide with World Aids Day (Getty Images)

Over 250 App Store apps that could look at what people were doing with their phones have been removed by Apple, after they were discovered to have been using software from an advertising company that secretly stole users’ personal information.

The apps used a special piece of software that allowed them to harvest users’ email addresses, serial numbers and to get a full collection of what apps people had installed on their phone. Apple took action soon after the problem was discovered.

Apple has a range of app review processes, which are supposed to vet new software before it gets into the store to ensure that it is not malicious. But the apps appear to have found a way around that.

The software was made by Chinese advertising firm Youmi. It used special techniques to get around Apple’s rules and review process, according to SourceDNA, which found the bug.

App makers probably didn’t know that the Youmi software was stealing their information, according to SourceDNA. Apple said that it would work with developers to help them have the software removed and get their apps back up on the store.

“We’ve identified a group of apps that are using a third-party advertising SDK, developed by Youmi, a mobile advertising provider, that uses private APIs to gather private information, such as user email addresses and device identifiers, and route data to its company server,” Apple told The Verge.

iPhone app store attacked

“This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines. The apps using Youmi’s SDK have been removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected. We are working closely with developers to help them get updated versions of their apps that are safe for customers and in compliance with our guidelines back in the App Store quickly.”

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