Fraud campaign installs rogue app on non-jailbroken iPhones

The attackers are likely abusing Apple's iOS Developer Enterprise Program, researchers said

iPhone 5 with iOS 7

iPhone 5 with iOS 7

Cybercriminals in Japan are targeting iPhone users with an online scam that tricks them into installing a malicious application when they attempt to view porn videos.

This type of attack, known as one-click fraud, is not new and has been used for years against Windows, Mac and Android users. However, what's interesting in this particular case is that it works even against non-jailbroken iPhones.

Apple tightly controls how iOS apps are distributed to users by forcing developers to publish them on the official App Store where they are subject to Apple's review procedures. However, there are exceptions to this rule in the form of special development programs for which participants have to pay extra.

One such program is called the iOS Developer Program and has an annual membership fee of US$99. Developers enrolled in this program can distribute apps over the air, outside of the official App Store, but there are some restrictions. They can only distribute apps in this manner to 100 devices per year and the unique IDs (UDID) of those devices need to be registered in advance.

Another program that's more flexible, but also more expensive, is called the iOS Developer Enterprise Program. It is intended for companies who develop their own apps and want to install them on their employees' iOS devices without publishing them on the App Store. Participation in this program costs US$299 per year.

Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec believe that Japanese cybercriminals are abusing the iOS Developer Enterprise Program in their latest one-click fraud campaign, even though they don't have confirmation yet.

"They could have either applied for membership on their own or compromised someone else's account," the researchers said Tuesday in a blog post.

Both those possibilities are bad. If attackers applied for membership, it would mean that the US$299 price is no longer a high enough barrier for them. As long as they can infect a large number of devices quickly and profit from them, it's worth it for attackers to pay that entry price even if Apple will likely revoke their developer ID when the attack is discovered.

If they used a compromised account, that might inspire others to do the same. That would be bad news for companies because demand for stolen developer accounts enrolled in the iOS Developer Enterprise Program would grow on the underground market.

The rogue app used in this fraud campaign requires user confirmation before it's installed. If that's obtained, the app will claim that the user has subscribed to an adult video site and needs to pay 99,000 Japanese yen (almost $800) over the next three days, or the price will go up to 300,000 yen ($2,400).

It's easy to see how that can be profitable. If a single victim pays $800, the attackers already make back the money paid for enrolling in the iOS Developer Enterprise Program, plus a $500 profit.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applesymantecsecuritymobile securityscamsfraud

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?