Mac App Store apps caught stealing user data

A view of a Macbook computer running MacOS High Sierra

A view of a Macbook computer running MacOS High Sierra

Wardle dug into claims by @privacyis1st that the No. 4 ranked paid app, Adware Doctor - published by Yongming Zhang in the Mac App Store - was stealing data. On September 7, Apple deleted Adware Doctor from their store after it was found tracking and stealing various personal information from its users.

Facepalm: After being caught uploading user's browser history to the cloud, Trend Micro has issued an apology.

Apple's walled garden approach to Mac and iPhone security is nearly entirely based on the inability to install apps outside the app store, which Apple monitors closely.

According to a report by TechCrunch, a former NSA hacker and now chief research officer at cybersecurity start-up Digital Security, Patrick Wardle has revealed that a top paid app called Adware Doctor steals user data and sends it to a server in China.

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It is unclear why Open Any Files was uploading data to Trend Micro servers, or if Trend Micro was the only company with access to the data uploaded by any of the Trend Micro apps. However, it looks that Apple does a miserable job sometimes when checking all submitted applications.

The app in question is the Adware Doctor, which sells for $14.99 and promises to remove adware, malware and other nasty pieces of software from Apple PCs. As of today all three apps have been removed from the US App Store.

"Most of this is data that App Store apps should not be accessing, much less exfiltrating". After getting access to the home directory, these apps would then silently created a zip file containing the user's browsing history from Safari, Chrome, and Firefox which was then uploaded to their servers.

"We've continued to fight against this app, as well as others made by the same developer, and it has been taken down several times now, but in a continued failure of Apple's review process, is always replaced by a new version before long", Reed wrote. Apple then removed both Dr Unarchive and Dr Cleaner from the App Store for violating the rules.

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Despite Trend Micro's apology, not everyone in the security community is buying the company's explanations.

"I strongly encourage you to treat the App Store just like you would any other download location: as potentially risky". This includes the one-time 24 hour log of browser history held for 3 months and permitted by users upon install.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Worse, critics are now wondering how these programs were able to get past the usual screen and still allowed on the Apple App Store.

Thomas Reed, the developer of Malwarebytes for Mac, chimed in on the thread confirming the unethical behavior and the connection between the two apps.

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