Don’t put your trust in Apple’s App Stores

You’d think Apple would notify people when it discovers apps sold in its App Stores, Mac or iOS, have been found to contain spyware taking private information, when they’ve removed them from the store. But no. I had Dr. Cleaner Pro installed, a paid-for app, on my Macbook Pro. It turns out, it’s been gone from the App Store since December 2017. And yet, because I restored my new Macbook Pro from a copy of my previous machine, a Macbook, using Apple’s own Migration Tool, it restored the app along with it.

How hard would it be for Apple to notify affected users by email? How difficult would it be for Apple, having discovered a breach, to arrange for all affected customers to be refunded. After all, their brand reputation is tarnished by the third-party developer, in this case the supposedly legitimate Trend Micro. Despite having a 30-year computer security history, that company is anything but legitimate. It apparently has a history of doing this privacy-invading thing. Eight other Trend Micro apps were yanked from the App Store at the same time. 

But no. No notification, no refund. Apple is too big to care, and we consumers are so focused on the shiny-shiny stuff, we let the company get away with all sorts of things, much like we do Facebook and Google. I only discovered the issue when running an anti-virus/anti-malware app, Bitdefender Virus Scanner, which found the spyware inside the Dr. Cleaner Pro app and tried to quarantine it but couldn’t. I was able, manually, to completely purge all traces of the app from my machine and it’s now clean, but apparently it was stealing browser history and other information all this time. The spyware was Trojan.MAC.SpyAgent.F.

Oh, one of the Trend Micro apps pulled from the App Store was, ironically and most deceptively of all, an anti-malware app, Dr. Antivirus! 

We are supposed to be able to trust the Apple App Store. I don’t any more. I’ll run the Bitdefender Virus Scanner monthly from now on to make sure I don’t get caught out again. And I’ve wasted money. Trend Micro should be called out for this crap. Don’t buy their products. As for Apple, it ought to realise this erosion of trust is like dripping water leading to rust.

Experiences like this impact on its customers severely, and we come away from tales such as this one with a less than rosy impression of the company we’ve given a lot of money to down the years. Given its value is now in excess of a trillion dollars, would it hurt Apple to have notified and refunded affected users? Did it desperately need to hold onto our cash after discovering what was going on? No. It’s greed and an absence of caring about customer loyalty going on here. Removing apps from the App Store, to stop them affecting customers, that’s great; not telling those already duped, not great at all. How are we supposed to find out? I only found out by chance, over nine months after Apple did. Apple presumably removed the apps to maintain trust but, by not telling affected users, it did the opposite.

Of course, Windows is an even bigger world of woe than MacOS and iOS, I know that. It’s why I’m not about to switch to machines that are bombarded with millions of viruses and malwares every time they go online. The Mac is a much safer platform, same as iOS is a much safer operating system than Android. It’s because Windows has a much poorer reputation that Apple can be blasé about the customer experience. But this stings, and won’t be forgotten.

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