Following the TechCrunch report from a few days ago that revealed that many apps were distributing forbidden content for iOS, Reuters tracked other breaches of Apple’s terms of service by using “Enterprise” certificates. It appears that many websites are offering access to pirated apps for iPhone users, by installing certificates obtained directly from Apple, which allows users to install apps from outside the Apple App Store.
Reuters reveals that popular paid apps or apps that can display ads are downloaded from the Apple App Store, modified then uploaded to other servers from where users can download them using Enterprise certificates. So, app developers but also Apple are losing some revenue. In case of apps that display ads such as Spotify, for example, the app behaves almost as an app that benefits from a premium account, and this way both Spotify and artists are affected.
Such piracy is very dangerous because users don’t need to make a lot of effort. All they need to do is install a certificate on their iOS devices and start downloading apps for free without the need of a jailbreak or other ways to modify the operating system.
It is very curious that some websites that offer pirated content are asking for money for VIP subscriptions that can offer access to premium features that guarantee pirated apps will work without problems, which appears to be very weird considering that people who are using such services are doing so in order to avoid paying.
Most likely, Apple’s and app developers revenue is not very affected by piracy because such services are not very popular, yet. Channels through which such content is being distributed have approximately 600,000 followers on Twitter but even if the number of those who use pirated content is bigger than a few million, they represent just a small part of the total 1.4 billion active iOS devices.
As a consequence of these reports Apple announced that certificates will be reviewed. Apple will introduce mandatory two step authentication for installing such certificates on iOS devices, and this will make piracy a bit harder.