Apple allowed spyware posing as anti-malware tool into its Mac App Store

Apple MacBook Pro OLED with Touch Bar
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

One of the top paid utilities in the Mac App Store that claims to protect your Apple computer against malware is actually spyware in disguise that does just the opposite. The app, Adware Doctor, retails for $5 on Apple’s online storefront, and security researchers discovered that the malicious app actually collects your browsing history across the Safari, Chrome, and Firefox browsers and sends that data to a China-based server.

Originally, the app was posed as Adware Medic, sharing a similar name to the AdwareMedic app that was acquired by Malwarebytes, forcing Apple to remove the copycat. However, after it changed its name to Adware Doctor, Apple allowed the app back into the Mac App Store, and the app has garnered a number of likely fake five-star reviews. Security researcher Patrick Wardle with Privacy 1st claimed that he notified Apple about the app’s malicious behavior, according to a report on 9to5 Mac. Apple removed the app after numerous tech publications reported on the app’s behavior on Friday, September 7.

In addition to sending your browsing history to China, Adware Doctor also has access to your iTunes search history as well as other apps that are installed on the Mac. Because it poses as an app designed to scan your Mac for malware and spyware, Adware Doctor was able to overcome the sandbox protections on the Mac. Wardle discovered that the app requested universal access on first run, which gave it access to information found from within other apps, like browsing history data on Safari. Apple claims that the release of MacOS Mojave this fall will bring new privacy protections designed to prevent apps like Adware Doctor from accessing Safari browsing history.

However, Wardle noted that the app does actually clear your browser of adware, and the app’s data collection stopped a few days ago, PCMag reported. 9to5 Mac reported that the server in China is now offline, but there’s still a chance it could resume operation.

Adware Doctor’s entry in Apple’s official Mac App Store should be cause for concern for consumers. Even if the app is highly rated — Adware Doctor came with more than 6,000 positive reviews — users should always research an app and the developer before installing anything from the internet, regardless of where it comes from. This incident follows an earlier report this week of a rogue Chrome browser extension. A fake extension was uploaded to Google’s Chrome webstore after the original developer was hacked, allowing the hackers to gain access to its users’ logins to other sites and services.

According to Malwarebytes‘ director of Mac and mobile Thomas Reed, the firm has worked with Apple numerous times in the past to remove fake apps, but these apps will reappear as a new version with a new name before long. “It’s blindingly obvious at this point that the Mac App Store is not the safe haven of reputable software that Apple wants it to be,” he said.

Computing

Apple’s unsafe Mac App Store is simply inexcusable

Multiple reports have indicated top apps in the Mac App Store have been stealing sensitive data right. Not only did Apple fail to properly vet them, it ignored warnings from security researchers for weeks. Is a safe app store too much to…
Smart Home

What is Instacart? Here’s how to use the grocery delivery app

One of the most popular grocery delivery apps is Instacart, which you can use to receive your groceries in as little as an hour. A shopper near you will deliver it to your door, saving you a trip to the store. Here's how it works.
Mobile

Be an online phantom and web surf safely with Ghostery’s mobile browser

Keeping your private information to yourself has become progressively harder in the internet age. If you're worried about your personal information, check out the new version of the Ghostery browser for iOS and Android.
Smart Home

Amazon Go, the checkout-free convenience store, opens in Chicago

Amazon's checkout-less convenience store, Amazon Go, is now open in Chicago. It's the first of the high-tech stores that allow people to grab items and go not located in the company's home city of Seattle.
Mobile

Find out how Apple's new iPhones measure up to the most bezel-less designs

As the smartphone industry marches toward a bezel-less future, we compare the shrinking bezels on the latest and greatest devices. Find out which manufacturers have the smallest bezels on their smartphone as we measure them side by side.
Mobile

iOS 12's Siri Shortcuts help Apple close the digital assistant gap

Siri may be lagging behind the competition, but Apple is finally supercharging the digital assistant with Siri Shortcuts, which allows you to perform tasks quickly and easily. Here's how to use iOS 12's new Siri Shortcuts app.
Mobile

Updating to Apple’s iOS 12 will make your iPhone a whole lot smarter

iOS 12, the latest version of Apple’s iOS, is officially here. We took it for a spin to check out its new noteworthy features, and if it truly changes our smartphone habits for the better.
Mobile

Apple iPhone XS vs. Samsung Galaxy S9: 2018’s biggest flagships clash

The iPhone XS has been revealed, and it's one of the best phones of the year. But even though it's Apple's latest and greatest, it's up against a lot of competition. Is the iPhone XS better than the Samsung Galaxy S9?
Mobile

The best weather apps for the iPhone

Don't rely solely on your local meteorologist to stay up to date on the weather. Take matters into your own hands with one of these weather apps, each of which brings something unique to the table.
Mobile

Code found in iOS 12.1 beta suggests we will see a new iPad this fall

The new iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch aren't the last devices we'll see from Apple in 2018. There are plenty of rumors about a new iPad coming this year too, and it may share some design similarities with the new phones.
Wearables

Fitbit Versa vs. Apple Watch Series 4: Which wearable is the best?

Smartwatches are the health-conscious wearables that everyone wants. We wanted to see how the brand-new Apple Watch Series 4 matches up with the beloved Fitbit Versa, so we compared them in various categories to help you choose.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Mobile

Fitbit’s new health care platform sets out to improve wellness in the workplace

Fitbit's new platform, Fitbit Care, aims to help improve wellness in the workplace. Using wearables, digital health coaching, and a more personalized health care experience, employees can have an easier time staying on top of their health.
Mobile

88 percent of the $800-plus smartphones sold last quarter were iPhones

Apple may not sell as many smartphones as Samsung overall, but according to a new report that varies depending on price. The company sold 43 percent of all smartphones over $400, and 88 percent of those over $800 last quarter.