Apple removes several apps that could spy on encrypted traffic

Apple has just purged their store of some apps that apparently had the potential to break into encrypted connections between the servers and the end-user. Needless to say that is great news for iOS users, but there is also a bit of irony mixed as well. Apple recommends its users to uninstalled removed Apps for their devices in order toprevent the risk of having their encrypted connections spied on. The problem is that no list of removed programs is disclosed. Our guess is that Apple is giving time to affected Apps to make amends, but it is as good a guess as any.

We’ve copied the relevant information from the news anouncment for easier access below:

“Apple has removed a few apps from the App Store that install root certificates that could allow monitoring of data,” came this Friday. “This monitoring could be used to compromise SSL/TLS security solutions. If you have one of these apps installed on your device, delete both the app and its associated configuration profile to make sure your data remains protected.”

As mentioned no list was released containing the names of affected Apps. Hopefully we’ll get one soon enough.

One example of a removed App we stumbled upon by sheer luck, based on tweet from one of the developers. The name of the app is Been Choice and the tweets content is: Been’s Choice app was pulled from the App Store. We’ll remove ad blocking for FB, Google, Yahoo, and Pinterest apps. It appears that the functionality of this App was to shave Ads from internet sites via the usage of  root certificate to decrypt the ecrypted security traffic that passes between servers and devices. Been Choice would cut right in the middle and filter all the unwanted Ads for the user.

This all sounds great on fight read, but we’d like to remind our readers about the Superfish scandal that shook Lenovo not too long ago.

Lenovo used to ship computers pre-loaded with self-signed HTTPS root certificate that was able to intercept and decrypt encrypted traffic called Superfish. This certificate was incredibly invasive and would track every website visited by the user. The trusted key provided by the visited site was bypassed altogether and replaced by a key created by Superfish. As a result of this manipulation everyone who had access to the new key had also access to all private data and communication of people using the computer. Whether any hackers had been able to get their hands on that key remains unknown, but the prospect of having your whole internet traffic spied on is horrifing on its own right.

All iOS users should be thus relieved that Apple is plugging the holes in their own ship before it begins sinking. However a lot of questions remain unanswered. Where was Apple’s quality control when multiple Apps were able to pass it and make it to the store loaded with this rootkit? Where is the list of those programs so we can uninstall them? Chancer are that any possible hackers are much better informed then the average user so it’s not like Apple will draw any unwanted attention to the issue. If there are some good news it’s that Apple mentioned that just “few” Apps were problematic and removed. Considering they’ve been running the App Store for over 7 years now that’s not bad record at all.