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Hundreds of iOS apps in the Chinese market found to be stealing private user data

Published Oct 19th, 2015 7:40PM EDT
iOS App Store Apps Private Data Collection

Right on the heels of a major malware attack on the App Store, mobile analytics service SourceDNA discovered another potential security breach in the form of private APIs being used in hundreds of apps which bypassed Apple’s app review process to collect private user data without the user’s permission.

READ MORE: Adobe confirms major Flash vulnerability, and the only way to protect yourself is to uninstall Flash

Before you scramble to delete every app on your iPhone or iPad, SourceDNA says that a vast majority of the apps appear to be from Chinese developers. After examining the advertising SDK contained within the affected apps, SourceDNA realized that all of the code was coming from the same company: Chinese advertiser Youmi.

During the course of testing, SourceDNA found 256 apps with more than 1 million downloads on the App Store containing a privacy-violating version of Youmi’s software. Thankfully, Apple has already taken action, but the analytics company is concerned that other developers might be using similar tactics that have not yet been discovered.

Apple issued the following statement shortly after the private APIs were discovered:

“We’ve identified a group of apps that are using a third-party advertising SDK, developed by Youmi, a mobile advertising provider, that uses private APIs to gather private information, such as user email addresses and device identifiers, and route data to its company server. This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines. The apps using Youmi’s SDK have been removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected. We are working closely with developers to help them get updated versions of their apps that are safe for customers and in compliance with our guidelines back in the App Store quickly.”

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.