iTunes Store Hacked?

PCWorld is reporting that a number of iPhone apps have been removed from the top 50 paid book applications section following complaints from other developers. The culprit? A number of poorly coded apps by the same publisher—mycompany/Thuat Nguyen. Despite occupying 40 of the 50 spots, the apps had no user reviews and were all very similar. Furthermore, it appears as if the apps were part of a scam involving hacked iTunes user accounts.

According to Patrick Thomson, an iPhone app developer, “It would appear that this publisher is hacking accounts and buying his own apps in order to drive up his rankings in the Books category.” So what gives Apple? The issue had been known since June 14th, when several of mycompany/Thuat Nguyen apps first broke into the top spots on Apple’s online store.

However, another iOS app developer, Alexandru Brie, has been quoted as saying that a number of other similar looking, and equally suspicious apps are still in the top 200 list. Apple is apparently investigating and dealing with them as it learns more. Good to see the company take the issue seriously.

So besides the fact that some iTunes user accounts were hacked, what is the big deal? Well having illegitimate apps in the top spots makes it harder for legitimate publishers to get noticed and it negatively impacts their sales since many iTunes users simply look to the top spots to see what others are buying or downloading. Furthermore, how would you feel as a customer if you assumed that because an app was in the top 50, it had to be well written and useful? Since the apps in questioned were poorly coded and basically just ploys to use to exploit the iTunes accounts that had been hacked, users who may have purchased them themselves really had a bad user experience. It does not bode well for a company that is planning on rolling out an iTunes streaming service to have a store that is susceptible to hackers manipulating rankings and exploiting accounts for money making schemes.

It is nice to see though that Apple has done, and is doing more to address the issue.

So, will you be more careful on the iTunes store now? More careful with your passwords? How do you decide which iPhone apps are worth downloading or buying? Let me know.

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