Apple Squashes App That Warned When Your iPhone Was Hacked

May 17, 2016, 5:55 PM UTC
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Apple has removed an app from its App Store that was designed to detect whether iOS-based devices had been infected with malware, among other issues.

The company removed System and Security Information from its App Store on Saturday, saying the program had violated Apple’s guidelines, according to the app’s creator Stefan Esser.

Apple (AAPL) said the program could “provide incorrect diagnostic information or other inaccurate device data,” according to a copy of the message from Apple that he posted online. The company also cited a rule that bans apps that “contain false, fraudulent, or misleading representations or use names or icons similar to other apps.”

System and Security Information tells iPhone owners what apps are running on their devices and when they’re close to running out of storage. It also is intended to detect possible hacks and malicious software that could leak private data to third parties.

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“The only reason our app is pulled and not the others that show system info/jailbreak status is because we put a dent in ‘unbreakable iOS,” Esser tweeted. He accused Apple of not wanting its users to believe “iOS could have security holes.”

Apple’s App Store has come under fire over the years for how it approves apps and being too general about the reasons it denies apps access to the company’s store. Despite attempts to improve transparency by making its developer guidelines and approval process clearer, the company still sometimes lets apps into its store, only to remove them later on. That appears to be what happened to System and Security Information.

Since the app’s removal, Esser has used Twitter (TWTR) to criticize Apple. He posted images warning iOS users about the potential for hackers to gain access to devices via a potential backdoor vulnerability. He added in another tweet that “Apple doesn’t want you to have to protect yourself.”

Still, Apple does offer many security apps in its App Store from a wide range of companies, including McAfee and Lookout. The issue with System and Security Information seems to be that the app attempted to provide device diagnostics without Apple knowing for sure that the data provided was accurate.

“Currently there is no publicly available infrastructure to support iOS diagnostic analysis,” Apple wrote to Esser, according to an image he posted to his Twitter feed. “Therefore your app may report inaccurate information which could mislead or confuse your users.”

However, Esser argues that there are other diagnostics tools still available in the App Store that Apple hasn’t removed.

So, what’s the next step for Esser? At this point, he can continue to publicly ding Apple in hopes that the company will reverse its decision or he can make changes to his app. But in the past, Apple has rarely changed its mind after it found app violations, and judging by Esser’s comments, he seems unwilling to bend to Apple’s will and remove some of the diagnostics features in his app.

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Apple (AAPL) did not respond to a request for comment.

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