Hundreds of illegal gambling apps aimed at the Chinese market were discovered by cybersecurity provider Trend Micro earlier this month and subsequently removed by Apple and Google from their respective mobile app stores according to a report by Trend Micro.
These illegal gambling applications masqueraded as other legal products with different content and functionality than what was actually offered within the app such as being dedicated to entertainment news or weather forecasts.
Once the user downloaded the app, though, it would transform to reveal additional functionality that made it an illegal gambling app.
Many of the apps, including some which were highly rated and had been downloaded by users over 100,000 times, were directly downloadable from the App Store and Google Play. That means those apps had unwittingly been vetted and approved by both Apple and Google.
The Trend Micro reports suggest the apps hid their true functionality until after the vetting process was complete.
Once the apps were approved by Apple and Google for distribution, the illegal gambling app developer could essentially hit a switch remotely to turn on the app’s hidden illegal functionality.
But not all of the illegal gambling apps identified by Trend Micro had been fully vetted.
Some of the apps were designed and distributed as enterprise apps through a process that has been described by The Verge as the wild west of mobile apps because it essentially creates a loophole for developers to bypass heavy restrictions.
Enterprise apps are allowed so that businesses can test apps within a theoretically controlled environment for a specific user base. In short, an enterprise app doesn’t have to be fully vetted for public use, so they are not restricted as tightly.
However, many rogue developers have exploited the enterprise mobile app process to circumvent the review and vetting process set up by Apple and Google to protect the public from harmful, malicious and otherwise illegal content.
Both Apple and Google allow gambling and other gaming-related mobile apps but have strict review processes to ensure the apps are safe, legal and secure. For example, Apple requires all gambling apps to be developed natively in iOS instead of HTML5, which is precisely why safe and legal sports betting apps, such as BetRivers.com, in Pennsylvania take so long to enter the market.
According to the Trend Micro report, it’s important for users who download mobile gambling apps to carefully read the descriptions of the apps as well as the ratings comments left by other users to ensure device safety.
The company also publishes a best practice guide for securing mobile devices to help educate owners on how to stay safe in the increasingly difficult to navigate world of technology.