Apple and Google remove misleading gambling apps

30 September 2019

Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store have removed a series of Asian-facing gambling apps that were falsely presented as non-gambling products.

An investigation by cyber security specialist Trend Micro discovered that Apple and Google Play’s stores contained apps designed to “trick unwitting users into downloading gambling apps,” including some apps listed among the top-100 most downloaded within their category and with more than 100,000 ratings.

According to Trend Micro, the apps were all deleted before the blog was posted, after the blog’s authors alerted Apple and Google.

The apps would typically feature descriptions that did not suggests they were gambling products — with Trend Micro citing examples of descriptions about wine and weather tracking — only for the app to be a gambling product unrelated to the description given.

The apps included a “switch feature,” in which the app can either show its actual content or the non-gambling content, allowing Apple and Google to only see the non-gambling version and approve the apps, before they revert to gambling apps.

The apps flagged included the 26th most popular app in the weather category and the 42nd, No. 51st and 88th most popular entertainment apps in the Chinese App Store. The blog also noted that many of the gambling apps had the same names as non-gambling apps and appeared above the non-gambling products in searches.

Gambling apps on both stores face many regulations, notably including Apple’s recent requirement for all real-money gambling apps to be iOS native rather than HTML-based. Trend Micro stated that the apps did not fulfill the requirements to be permitted as real-money gambling apps in either store.