Security researchers have discovered multiple “fleeceware” apps in the Apple iOS App Store. Before we get into it, you may be thinking about what a fleeceware app is. Researchers at UK-based cybersecurity giant Sophos coined this term last year aiming at a new type of online fraud. Fleeceware apps engage in fraud by charging the user even after they have uninstalled the app. A report in the past already outlined the presence of this app on Google Play Store. The new report analyzed the Apple iOS App Store to highlight similar apps. Let’s take a closer look. Also Read - Apple iOS 14 will let users try apps without having to install them
Apple iOS App Store fleeceware problem
According to a new report from Sophos, a new investigation has discovered “more than 30 apps” on the App Store. The company revealed that may of these apps charge about $30 a month or $9 per week after the initial 3 or 7 day trial period. If the customer forgets to cancel the subscription, such prices will amount to $360 or even $468 per year. Similar to the trends on Play Store, most of these apps on the Apple iOS App Store are image editors. Other types of fleeceware apps include horoscope, fortune telling, palm reading, QR code, bar-code scanners, and even face filters. Also Read - Apple iOS 14 reveals iPhone 9, new iPad Pro and AirTags details: Everything you need to know
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Most of the apps did not come with any “extraordinary features” that are not available in other free apps. It is not likely that these apps provide any “ongoing value to the customer”, putting them against the App Store guidelines. Most of these apps come with a “Free” tag during installation. The actual fraud happens as an in-app purchase. Lack of clarification put these apps against yet another App Store guideline. For context, Apple requires apps to have a clear indication in the description, screenshots, and preview about any additional purchases. Also Read - Apple iOS 13.3.1 released with option to disable U1 ultra wideband chip
Instead of the “Free” tags, these apps actually come as a “free trial”. Users are greeted with the “free trial” notification when they install and open the app for the first time. This asks users to provide their payment details. It is possible that users can sign up for the subscription without reading the actual details. The report outlined the revenue that some of these apps make. In fact, some of the apps are in the top-grossing apps section on the Apple iOS App Store. Users revealed in the review sections of these apps that they subscribed to such apps through advertisements.
Solution for the problem
Both major app platforms, the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play Store on Android suffer from the problem. The report asks users to stay alert and carefully check the details before subscribing to anything. In addition, users can also check out existing subscriptions and cancel anything that they don’t remember subscribing to or using. Apple iOS users can head to the “Subscriptions” section in the “Settings” app. If you don’t see this section then search for the “iTunes & App Store” section and then tap on your Apple ID and select “View Apple ID”. Here your phone will ask you to sign in to your ID. You can scroll down to the “Subscriptions” section after signing in.
Android users can head to the Play Store and double-check that they are signed in with the correct account. Here, they need to tape on the hamburger menu icon on the left or swipe from left edge to the right side. There, you can see the “Subscriptions” section to manage all your current subscriptions.