Apple has been taking some flack this week after it emerged that they have been allowing a VPN to be sold on the App Store which offered unnecessary security services at hugely inflated prices.
The app in question was called ‘Mobile Protection: Clean & Security VPN’ and was available on the US App Store for a quite remarkable price of $99 a week. It was available from a seller named on the site as “Ngan Vo Thi Thuy” and despite the outrageous price, the app has managed to make it onto the app store’s top earners list for the past two months.
Scam App, fake service
The app offers services which are essentially unnecessary, such as an iOS antivirus and malware scanning service. As has been pointed out, this is impossible in iOS because apps are isolated and unable to interrogate other apps installed on the same device.
But, perhaps more worryingly, it also redirects all of its user’s internet traffic to a server somewhere. The only firm promise the App makes as far as its VPN service is concerned is to “change your device IP”.
This was the reason why the app came to the attention of Developer Johnny Lin, who has blogged about the App and how Apple let it into the App Store in the first place. As he said in his blog, “I was one Touch ID away from a $400 A MONTH subscription to reroute all my internet traffic to a scammer.”
Despite offering impossible-to-deliver services and vague promises about its VPN services, the app appears to have made its anonymous developer a considerable amount of money.
It has now been removed from the US App Store (but is apparently still accessible in the Belize App Store) but since it was posted on 14th April, it is estimated by Mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower to have made around $80,000 a month.
As Johnny Lin noted in his blog, from April 20th – June 7th it was one of the top 10 grossing apps in the US App Store. However, he also notes that at the exorbitant prices the app charged, it would only need around 200 subscribers to get to that amount.
The principal concern that Lin is raising relates to the approval process which Apple users before Apps make it into the store. For many legitimate app developers, this is a cumbersome, time-consuming, and capricious process. So, if that is the case, how on earth did a fraudulent app like this make it into the App Store in the first place?
Equally, he asks how Apple don’t have a process to flag this app when it starts to generate revenue at the rate that it clearly did.
Research the best VPN before signing up
But it also illustrates the risks associated with people who read about VPNs in the mainstream media and sign up for the first thing they see without first doing their research. We have written before about the emergence of fake VPNs in the wake of the decision of the FCC in America to roll back online privacy laws.
With this App launching around the same time as that ruling, in early April, it was clearly intended to capitalise on the spike in interest in VPNs across America as people looked to protect their online privacy from their own ISPs.
But whilst greater interest in and awareness of VPNs is, of course, to be welcomed, it is vital that people do their research and consult with credible comparison and review sites before signing up for a service. Remember a VPN is rerouting all of your online traffic through their own server. If they are not a trustworthy customer, this is a significant risk to take with your data.
If you are looking for a trustworthy, reliable, and cost-effective VPN to use with iOS, our recommendation is IPVanish. They have been around for years (not just a few weeks) and have built up a loyal customer base thanks to their fast connections, secure encryption, and a wide range of overseas servers for users to choose from.
And perhaps more importantly, their subscription fees start from $4.54 per month; around 1/20th of the fee for this scam app on the US App Store. That is the sort of price most reputable VPNs will charge for their services.
So, if you come across an unknown name offering a VPN service at a hugely inflated price, let us know, and we can help point you towards an effective, trustworthy, and affordable VPN, whatever you needs may be.