Beware, iPhone Users: Fake Retail Apps Are Surging Before Holidays
SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of fake retail and product apps have popped up in Apple’s App Store in recent weeks — just in time to deceive holiday shoppers.
The counterfeiters have masqueraded as retail chains like Dollar Tree and Foot Locker, big department stores like Dillard’s and Nordstrom, online product bazaars like Zappos.com and Polyvore, and luxury-goods makers like Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Salvatore Ferragamo.
这些冒牌货或者伪装成美元树(Dollar Tree)和Foot Locker之类的零售连锁商，或者是迪拉德(Dillard’s)和诺德斯特龙(Nordstrom)之类的大百货，抑或Zappos.com和Polyvore之类的网店，以及周仰杰(Jimmy Choo)、克丽斯汀·迪奥(Christian Dior)和菲拉格慕(Salvatore Ferragamo)这样的奢侈品牌。
“We’re seeing a barrage of fake apps,” said Chris Mason, chief executive of Branding Brand, a Pittsburgh company that helps retailers build and maintain apps. He said his company constantly tracks new shopping apps, and this was the first time it had seen so many counterfeit iPhone apps emerge in a short period of time.
“我们发现了大量的山寨手机应用，”匹兹堡公司Branding Brand的首席执行官克里斯·梅森(Chris Mason)说道，该公司负责帮助零售商建立并维护手机应用。他说，他的公司经常跟踪新的购物应用，在这么短的时期内出现这么多假冒苹果手机应用，还是第一次。
Some of them appeared to be relatively harmless — essentially junk apps that served up annoying pop-up ads, he said.
But there are serious risks to using a fake app. Entering credit card information opens a customer to potential financial fraud. Some fake apps contain malware that can steal personal information or even lock the phone until the user pays a ransom. And some fakes encourage users to log in using their Facebook credentials, potentially exposing sensitive personal information.
That scrutiny, which Apple markets as an advantage over Google’s less restrictive Android smartphone platform, is supposed to stop any software that is deceitful, that improperly uses another company’s intellectual property or that poses harm to consumers.
In practice, however, Apple focuses more on blocking malicious software and does not routinely examine the thousands of apps submitted to the iTunes store every day to see if they are legitimately associated with the brand names listed on them.
With apps becoming more popular as a way to shop, it is up to brands and developers themselves to watch for fakes and report them, much as they scan for fake websites, said Ben Reubenstein, chief executive of Possible Mobile, a Denver company that makes apps for JetBlue Airways, the PGA Tour and the Pokémon Company, among others.
客户包括捷蓝航空(JetBlue Airways)、PGA巡回赛(PGA Tour)和精灵宝可梦公司(Pokémon Company)的丹佛Possible Mobile公司首席执行官本·鲁宾斯坦(Ben Reubenstein)说，随着手机应用成为愈来愈流行的购物方式，寻找并举报山寨应用成了品牌和开发者的任务，就跟他们需要搜寻假冒网站一样。
“It’s important that brands monitor how their name is being used,” he said.
Apple removed hundreds of fake apps on Thursday night after The New York Times inquired about the specific app vendors that created many of them. Other apps were removed after a New York Post article last week drew attention to some of the counterfeits.
周二晚上，在《纽约时报》查问了一些制造了许多假冒应用的卖家之后，苹果公司下架了数百个山寨应用。上周《纽约邮报》(New York Post)的一篇文章关注了若干伪造应用后，苹果公司亦下架了一批应用。
“We strive to offer customers the best experience possible, and we take their security very seriously,” said an Apple spokesman, Tom Neumayr. “We’ve set up ways for customers and developers to flag fraudulent or suspicious apps, which we promptly investigate to ensure the App Store is safe and secure. We’ve removed these offending apps and will continue to be vigilant about looking for apps that might put our users at risk.”
In September, Apple also embarked on a campaign to review all two million apps in the App Store and remove “apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines or are outdated.” The company says that a significant number of apps have been removed and that the review is continuing.
Despite Apple’s efforts, new fake apps appear every day. In some cases, developers change the content of an app after it has been approved by Apple’s monitors. In other instances, the counterfeiters change their names and credentials, and resubmit similar apps after one round of fakes is discovered.
“It’s a game of Whac-a-Mole,” Mr. Mason of Branding Brand said.
On Friday, for example, an entity calling itself Overstock Inc. — an apparent attempt to confuse shoppers looking for the online retailer Overstock.com — was peddling Ugg boots and apparel through a fake app that was nearly identical to one banished by Apple on Thursday.
The same Chinese app developer, Cloaker Apps, created both fake Ugg apps on behalf of Chinese clients.
Jack Lin, who identified himself as the head of Cloaker, said in a phone interview in China that his company provides the back-end technology for thousands of apps but does not investigate its clients.
“We hope that our clients are all official sellers,” he said. “If they are using these brands, we need some kind of authorization, then we will provide services.”
Mr. Lin said Cloaker charged about 20,000 renminbi — about $3,000 — for an app written in English.
But like so many of the apps his company produces, Cloaker is not what it purports to be. Its website is filled with dubious claims, such as the location of its headquarters, which it says is at an address smack in the middle of Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
In the interview, Mr. Lin at first said he had offices only in China and Japan. When asked about the California office, he then claimed to have “tens of employees” at the Facebook address.
Many of the fake retail apps have red flags signaling that they are not real, such as nonsensical menus written in butchered English, no reviews and no history of previous versions. In one fake New Balance app, for example, the tab for phone support did not list a phone number and said, “Our angents are available over the hone Monday-Firday.”