The traditional complaint about Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) mobile app store was that it was suffocatingly micromanaged. Now, it seems, the pendulum has swung in the exact opposite direction.
According to an alarming report from The New York Times, a growing volume of both customers and app developers are coming forward with claims that they were defrauded directly through Apple’s online store. Texas technology writer Matthew Pierson reported to the Times that a remote user had wracked up over $430 in virtual charges through his iTunes account in little over an hour. Shortly after realizing he was being charged erroneously, Pierson logged onto his e-mail account only to watch receipts for purchases he didn’t order roll through his inbox.
As reported by the New York Times, Apple has now received hundreds of similar complaints surrounding account hijacking. However, other complaints have started piling up — with customers complaining of falsely advertised apps, and even app designers now complaining of remote security breaches resulting in hundreds of dollars sunk into stolen purchases.
Apple’s digital store is a mini-economy unto itself, and has won billions in revenue for Apple and its partner designers. According to standing figures compiled by the New York Times, the app store currently offers over 600,000 apps for Apple’s trinity of handhelds — the iPhone, iPad and iPod. At the start of 2012, Apple was receiving 26,000 app submissions per week from various designers, and screens out no less than 30% of all weekly submissions. Competition is understandably fierce, which has brought its own species of fraud. Developers complain that software companies are resorting to dishonest means to inflate the cherished popularity ranking of their own products.
The sprawling structure of Apple’s digital store makes it a veritable cybcercrime playground for those intent on theft. Hackers frequently advertise their services by posting through online marketplaces such as China’s Taobao. Just $33 can buy access to iTunes accounts (with the accompanying purchasing power and credit card information) — which can result in thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases.
The problem seems to be widespread, but gauging the precise extent of digital theft exercised through the iTunes store is proving difficult. There is growing suspicion that Apple might be intentionally wiping away evidence of the cybercrime funneling through its digital store — even when such fraud is hurting allied developers.
Apple refuses to comment on the rash of theft complaints, and has yet to acknowledge growing public concern around the online store’s major cybersec flaws. However, through tracking extensive posts made to technical support forums, it is apparent that cyber fraud has been a major concern since no later than November 2010.
The increasingly public chorus of complaints indicates that the volume of cybercrime filtering through Apple’s channel is only growing — and will continue irrespective of the company’s refusal to acknowledge security breaches.
Adam Patterson is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold stock in Apple. For more from the company, check out our previous Apple Rumors stories.
You can follow Adam on Twitter @ToweringBabble.