Illegal Gambling Apps Removed from Google and Apple

Sep 27

Apple and Google have recently removed a number of apps from their respective online stores--the App Store and Google Play. These apps were determined to be illegal gambling apps; hence, the removal.

It is said that the apps in question were Asian-facing apps that were masquerading as legal apps focusing on such subjects as travel and weather. The fact that their descriptions were far from their actual content and projected them as innocent apps was the main reason why they escaped detection for some time. The ruse is said to be an attempt to bypass app store policies as well as local government rules.

Other than the misleading descriptions, the apps were also designed such that their gambling features were deliberately hidden during reviews. These illegal apps were highly downloaded in China, although government efforts to break up illegal online gambling gangs have already resulted in a high number of arrests.

One of the removed apps was said to have been designed like a platform geared toward wine lovers. When the operator flicked a switch, however, the true nature of the app was revealed. This hidden gambling app was uncovered by cybersecurity company Trend Micro. Trend Micro has said that they have recently uncovered hundreds of similar apps. Some of these apps were even included in Top 100 lists and rated well over 100,000 times. They then informed Apple and Google about these illegal apps, which resulted in their deletion.

Google and Apple both allow gambling apps in their respective stores, but they do have strict reservations. Among other things, a gambling operator must adhere to the local laws, regulations, and industry standards of its target market. Google in particular requires operators to secure certification, which is only given to those who can demonstrate that they provide services only to approved countries, that they do not target minors, and that information about responsible gambling is displayed on their landing pages.

For their part, Apple has told all developers of apps currently in the App Store that they need to ditch HTML5 coding, and start adopting native applications rooted in iOS. According to Trend Micro, none of the apps they identified were compliant with Apple and Google’s conditions. They further discovered that the reason why these apps originally passed scrutiny was that they had a hidden ‘switch’ that can be activated after the review phase to show users their true content.

One app cited by Trend Micro had a description that said it was a hub for tourist information. However, it will soon redirect you to a lottery system. Many of the removed apps were copies of actual apps from legit businesses. What’s crazy is that these copies often ranked higher than the real apps in the Chinese App Store. There was even one that was rated 440,000 times by different users.

It can be remembered that in August of 2018, the Chinese state media attacked Apple, saying the company has failed to protect Chinese citizens from apps containing gambling and pornographic content. The Chinese App Store was even singled out for facilitating the distribution of illegal online lottery apps that were disguised as ‘safe’ programs.