updated 10:20 am EDT, Mon July 5, 2010
iTunes accounts at risk?
A purge of books has taken place at the App Store following accusations of illegal activity. Apple has removed dozens of titles belonging to "mycompany," really developer Thuat Nguyen, who in recent days came to virtually control the top paid books category. At one point 40 out of the 50 top books were attributed to Nguyen, despite the fact that they were mostly non-localized Japanese comics, submitted within a space of two days and likely violating copyright. Many of these were given Vietnamese names, and priced at $5 apiece.
A number of iTunes users are reporting downloads of the apps as fraudulent, having been made by someone hacking into their accounts. Many of the reviews for the apps were also suspicious, with simple entries like "it's great" or "good, this story is very interesting."
The incident suggests a significant security breach, one that may have temporarily hurt not only iTunes customers but authentic app developers. Many companies count on being in the top rankings to get continued exposure, since it can otherwise be difficult to sort through quality apps.
Selling hacked iTunes accounts is alleged to be commonplace in China, where the buyers may pay a small fee at an auction site like Taobao for the privilege of downloading as many apps as possible before Apple detects the fraud. Whether Nguyen paid to skew his rankings is unclear, but the books may have been pulled following an investigation supposedly acknowledged by Apple's senior VP of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller.