Apple Permitted Posing Of Spyware as Anti-Malware on its App Store

Joshua Bennett
September 13, 2018

Apple has removed a popular Mac app after it was found to be stealing users' data.

Sandboxing prevents apps from accessing data on a user's hard drive, such as any software they've downloaded, as well as their browser history. Cleaner and other utilities sold in the Mac App Store were exfiltrating their browser history since at least December 2017.

We reached out to Trend Micro for a statement on the matter but received no reply at the time of publishing. The average user would not see this as out of place but it is how the app is able to gain access to their system and share their data with the developer without their knowledge.

It's emerged that a number of apps from the Mac App Store have been secretly gathering user data and uploading it to remote servers.

RevealMobile, a monetization firm that has previously been accused of over collecting location data through popular weather apps, is implicated in this research, along with 12 other data monetization firms.

Trend Micro, Inc is a well-known name in virus protection, so users could be forgiven for thinking that downloading an app from the company would be safe.

Apps such as Dr. Unarchiver and Dr. Well, that seems to be exactly what's happened with a series of apps which have now been yoinked from the store by Apple. The issue at hand is the unlawful collection of data and there is no telling how much information was gathered through unauthorized access. Any user running both the app and a major browser (Chrome, Firefox and Safari in this case) has likely had their online activity recorded and stolen away to the Chinese server. We have contacted Apple and Trend Micro Inc. and will update the post if there is any response. As Trend Micro explains in its support section, if a site can't be verified by a local database or a memory-cache search, the service consults its server.

Spyware apps making their way into app stores are not unique, but most are obscure and rarely used. Cleaner, and Dr. Unarchiver, among others.

It said it had chose to remove the browser history collection feature and had erased all the browser history data it had stored from previous collections.

Apple has not commented on the removal of the Trend Micro apps that violated its privacy provisions, or why they were not discovered before despite testing.

The tech giant Apple had been alerted to this situation for some time but chose not to take the app from its store.

Thomas Reed, the developer of Malwarebytes for Mac, chimed in on the thread confirming the unethical behavior and the connection between the two apps.

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