Apple Blocked 1.6 Million Malicious Apps in 2021

The tech firm also protected its users by rejecting suspicious accounts and blocking false ratings.
Isobel O'Sullivan

According to a report released by Apple, the tech firm prevented over 1.6 million applications from scamming users in 2021 – thwarting an estimated $1.5 billion of fraudulent activity.

This is consistent with the company's efforts last year, when the company blocked 1 million scam apps capable of carrying out an equal amount of fraudulent transactions.

The app store's robust safety mechanisms also obstructed millions of fraudulent customer and developer accounts before they could harm customers.  But with the creation of scam apps only rising year on year, Apple's whack-a-mole approach to cybersecurity isn't going to be able to protect all of its users.

Apple Blocked Over 1.6 Million Problematic Apps

Apple has released its latest fraud prevention analysis for 2021. Among its key findings, the report revealed that Apple's safety mechanisms blocked over 1.6 million untrustworthy iOS apps before they reached their customers, saving them an estimated $1.5 billion in damages.

Apple also reportedly rejected 534,000 apps before they entered the marketplace. Out of these applications, 157,000 were considered to be spam or copycats, 34,000 contained hidden or undocumented features, and 343 committed privacy violations.

As cybercriminals continue to experiment with novel ways to exploit their victims, scam apps are becoming more popular than ever.

“Apple’s ongoing commitment to protect users from fraudulent app activity demonstrates once again why independent, respected security experts have said the App Store is the safest place to find and download apps.” – Apple wrote in its statement 

Fortunately, as these applications grow in number and sophistication, Apple is constantly refining its processes and engineering new solutions altogether to ween out the bad actors. But what else did the company do to protect its 4.5 million-strong user base?

What Else Did Apple Fraud Prevention Analysis Show?

Besides blocking malicious apps, Apple also blocked 3.3 million suspected stolen credit cards from purchasing goods through the App Store in 2021. As a result, 600,000 accounts using these cards were banned from using the platform permanently.

Apple's Fraud Prevention infographic

Apple's fraud prevention mechanisms also deactivated over 170 million malicious customer accounts and 802,000 developer accounts. A further 118 million suspicious customer accounts were also canceled before they had the chance to go live.

To make it easier for iOS users to access trusted apps, Apple also scanned over 1 billion ratings for legitimacy. After this review, the company removed 94 million fake reviews from its site and 190 million ratings that failed to meet their moderation status.

Scam Apps are on the Rise – Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself

As the results of the report make clear, Apple's anti-fraud unit has been hard at work over the past few years, and its efforts aren't going to stop any time soon.

Yet, as Apple continues to protect its userbase, there are still a number of measures individuals and businesses can take to limit the impact of these scam apps. We list a couple of tried and tested strategies below.

  • Read app reviews – As Apple's latest research has shown, untrustworthy reviews do happen. But fortunately, false reviews are pretty easy to spot. By taking a look at reviews before you download an app, you can gauge if they can be trusted.
  • Report bad actors – Even when taking necessary precautions, malicious apps can slip through the cracks. If you suspect an app you downloaded may be illegitimate, you should report it to the app marketplace right away.
  • Use strong passwords – It's easier for scam apps to access your personal information if you're using a weak password. To keep your smartphone safe, we recommend using a password manager.
  • Remain vigilant – Most scam apps are very convincing and could easily pass as legitimate apps. Just to be safe, we recommend double-checking apps for red flags before entering sensitive information.
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Isobel is a writer at Tech.co with a wealth of experience covering business and technology news. Since specializing in Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also spent time working as a freelance tech researcher. As a writer, Isobel takes a particular interest in issues regarding data security, social media, and emerging business technology.

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