Misleading iOS 'security' apps are about to be a thing of the past.
Apple has updated its developer guidelines with a new policy that bans deceptive 'virus-scanning' apps for the first time.
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From the latest App Store guidelines:
You should not market your app on the App Store or offline as including content or services that it does not actually offer (e.g. iOS-based virus and malware scanners). Egregious or repeated behavior is grounds for removal from the Developer Program. We work hard to make the App Store a trustworthy ecosystem and expect our app developers to follow suit; if you’re dishonest, we don’t want to do business with you.
A quick search of the App Store also suggests that Apple has been quietly removing many of the apps that purport to have such capabilities, as search terms like 'virus scanner' and 'malware finder' no longer turn up results for these types of apps.
It's incredibly misleading for apps to advertise themselves as having these types of features
As the company notes in its guidelines, it's incredibly misleading for apps to advertise themselves as having these types of features. Not because it's impossible for malicious code to find its way into the App Store (though rare, it has happened), but because Apple's developer policies make it literally impossible for any third-party app to identify such malicious code in the first place.
What's most surprising is that it's taken Apple this long to crack down on these types of apps in the first place. Although they weren't always a big problem, it became a bigger issue over the last year as Apple automated more if its app review process, making it easier for ill-intentioned developers to sneak scammy apps into the store.
Apple's new search ads, which allows developers to advertise their apps against popular search terms in the App Store, further complicated the issue. As we highlighted back in June, a number of developers were abusing search ads by promoting scammy 'virus cleaner' and 'antivirus' apps that tricked users into paying huge subscription fees for services they didn't provide.
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But by now cracking down on the entire category, the company is finally working to get these apps out for good.