Apple has owned up to a rare incursion of malicious software into its App Store, forcing it to pull some of the most widely used mobile apps in China from the service.
Late on Sunday in California, the iPhone and iPad maker confirmed reports by security researchers who had warned that a swath of popular Chinese apps had been created using developer tools that were infected with the malware, resulting in the compromised apps.
“Hundreds of millions” of users of the popular Chinese apps were at risk of having their personal data exposed, including people who use Tencent’s WeChat mobile messaging service and ride-hailing app Didi Kuaidi, according to Palo Alto Networks, a US cyber security company.
Apple said it had removed the infected apps, which had been created with what it said was a fake version of its software for app developers, known as Xcode.
It did not explain how developers of a large number of China’s most widely used mobile services had all been infected with the same piece of malware, or how the infected apps that resulted had got through its security screening for the App Store.
“To protect our customers, we’ve removed the apps from the App Store that we know have been created with this counterfeit software and we are working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps,” Apple said.
The admission is a black eye for the US company, which has made much of its superior security record in mobile apps compared with that of Google. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, last year criticised Google for what he claimed were insecure apps, quoting a report that criticised the search company’s Android Play store as a “toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities”.
Palo Alto Networks said in a blog post on Friday that it had found 39 apps in Apple’s App Store that had been created with the infected developer software, which has been dubbed XcodeGhost. Along with WeChat and Didi Kuaidi, the compromised apps include ones for games, banking, stock trading, maps, social networks and mobile phone services, it added.
Tencent said in a statement on social networking service Sina Weibo that it had replaced the compromised version of its app. It also said that users had not lost personal information or other property because of the infection.
Courtesy of ft.com