Apple’s Developer Certificates Are Being Used by iOS Pirates to Share Hacked Apps

By Nitish Singh / February 14, 2019

Apple’s enterprise certificates are being misused to share official apps outside of the company’s own App Store Reuters reports. When it comes to software, Apple offers a restricted environment, and third-party stores are not allowed. However, pirates have managed to find a workaround that allows them to modify official apps to remove ads and even unlock premium features for free. Some of the most popular apps that have been exploited include Pokemon Go, Minecraft, and Spotify.

Three major app distributors have been identified so far. AppValley, TutuApp and Panda Helper are the three biggest Apple app distributors who have managed to bypass the App Store ecosystem by taking advantage of the platform’s dev certificates. These certificates essentially work like digital keys that tell iPhones and iPads if an app is legitimate or not.

The developer certificates can be obtained for a fee of $299. The app distributors, in turn, exploit them and make premium apps available for free. Some of the distributors are offering access to premium Apple apps for as little as $13 per year. Some of the pirate distributors have already been banned, but proxy websites and new services have started cropping up.

Apple is currently working on a two-factor authentication method to curb the issue. Users who want to log in to developer accounts will have to go through 2FA implementations to access accounts. Apple has not revealed how much the recent piracy activity has hurt the company, but the popular distributors have garnered over 600,000 followers on Twitter according to a report by Reuters. With the latest version of iOS not being jailbreakable so far, users are opting for these third-party pirate app sellers to get access to apps for cheaper.

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