Hackers are currently distributing counterfeit versions of popular apps, including Minecraft and Pokémon Go, bypassing Apple’s App Store, reports Reuters. These illicit applications could have cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue to the original software developers.
Advertisements that usually appear in the original apps are blocked in pirated versions, and paid features are offered for free.
Hackers use “corporate developer certificates” to distribute their applications outside the App Store. These certificates are normally given to companies so that they can offer internal applications to their employees.
By using this special permission, hackers can offer their apps without being subject to checks from the App Store, which blocks pirated content.
Significant revenue losses
A certificate like this would cost around $299, according to TechCrunch. All indications are that it is relatively easy to obtain one, since some of the pirated application distributors have previously been banned by Apple, but it took them a few days to submit their applications online.
To make their investment in a certificate profitable, distributors would require an annual subscription of approximately $13.
Designers of the original apps are losing a significant portion of their revenue when users turn to pirated versions. The exact amount of losses incurred is unknown, but Reuters points out that the hacking companies it investigates have a total of 600,000 followers on Twitter. This suggests that their services are well known and potentially used by thousands of people.
A widespread ploy
Business designer certificates have been blamed in other controversies in recent weeks. Facebook and Google were first pinned by TechCrunch for distributing applications to get very large amounts of data using this method. Then, a few days ago, the American web magazine discovered that companies were distributing gambling and pornography applications using the same ploy.