Tech

App Store Games for Kids Unlock Into Gambling Apps When Opened With a VPN

By Bill Toulas / April 16, 2021

Creator of the ‘FlickType’ AppWatch app Kosta Eleftheriou has made an alarming discovery on the Apple App Store, figuring that several kid games there are in reality gambling apps waiting to be unlocked. All that it takes for it is to open them from the right country, and the easiest way to do that is to use a VPN tool. Eleftheriou confirmed that setting the VPN to route traffic through a Turkey-based server will do the trick, and the seemingly innocent games will turn into fully-fledged gambling platforms.

This is obviously violating Apple’s terms, and the company was quick to remove the apps that were reported and confirmed to do functionality-hiding tricks. It is unclear if these apps received the additional functionality via an update that came after they were reviewed and accepted on the App Store or if the developers hid it in the code from the beginning.

If these apps were using Apple’s IAP (in-app purchase), though, as required by all gambling and lottery apps, Apple might have allowed them to keep their place on the App Store, but the developers of the apps were unmistakably looking to avoid having to pay the tech giant its cut. Also, Apple wants all gambling apps to have the necessary licensing and permissions in the locations/countries where they are used, to avoid legal trouble and penalties. Not declaring your app's real nature is a blatant violation of this and a sure way to get you ousted from the App Store.

We don’t know how Eleftheriou could spot these apps among the millions available in the App Store. Still, some of them had over-simplified “primary” functionality as games that didn’t match their popularity numbers, and others had strange reviews mentioning the loss of money from “rigged” virtual casino mechanics.

The developer concludes that Apple isn’t conducting a robust app review as it has repeatedly claimed, and the App Store isn’t working as securely as the firm pretends it does. After all, this is the same person that revealed another multi-million-dollar scam taking place on the App Store in February 2021. Back then, the iOS developer expressed his disbelief in Apple’s sincere intentions for the first time, and his thoughts resonated with other experts in the field as well.



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