Apple App Store and iTunes Hacked

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The story broke yesterday morning at The Next Web, announcing that the App Store had been hacked.  They had been alerted by App Store developers who noted that a sudden rise in electronic books (ebooks) written in Vietnamese made no sense.

The ebook section of the Store is usually dominated by English-based books and even then, only a couple of hundred sales a day are required to stay near the top of the rankings.  That all of the newly-rising ebooks were written in Vietnamese and were relatively obscure and, most telling, were all from the same developer, was strange.  The App Store had been hacked by someone who was using the access to Store and iTunes accounts to “purchase” their own books in order to artificially raise them in prominence.

When reviews from purchasers began surfacing saying that they never bought the book and they wanted refunds, the fix was obvious.  Apple quickly closed the offending developer’s account and refunded all sales.

This is not the first time Apple has been the focus of an attack like this.  In fact, according to MacRumors, it’s a common, ongoing problem.  A problem that most outlets similar to iTunes have to deal with.

CNet, however, is reporting the problem to be much larger than the downplayed MacRumors article would admit.  TheNextWeb has since expanded their story as well, showing that the attacks have not been just for those books and have been more widespread – global, in fact .  The trend appears to be to purchase one or two low-cost apps ($1-$2) and then jump to a much higher-cost app (nearing $100). All of the apps involved so far seem to be from Asia-based developers.

Apple is encouraging users to change their passwords, but has otherwise made no comment.