Apple and Google under Inquiry after Crypto Scams Hit App Stores

US Senator Sherrod Brown has sent a letter to Apple and Google demanding to know how the companies review and approve mobile apps, particularly those used for cryptocurrency trading and storing. Brown also questioned whether the companies monitor the apps they list in their stores, and how they stop them from turning into phishing scams.

Crypto scams have been picking up at an alarming rate as more people hear about cryptocurrency coins and investments, and cybercriminals capitalize on their interest. The FBI has warned that fake crypto apps defrauded investors of $42.7 million in the last year. 

Apple and Google own the largest app market share respectively, except in a few countries. In his letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Sen. Brown asks about their app vetting methods and how they monitor potentially fraudulent apps. 

Crypto Scam Apps Abound

The Google Play Store constantly struggles with apps that spread malware and phishing scams. Despite an apparent improvement in its app vetting process and a focus on strengthening Play Protect, which checks apps for harmful behavior, malicious apps are rife on the platform. 

While the Play Store takes down malicious apps after an undisclosed number of reports, more still keep making it onto the platform. In 2021, security researchers at Lookout Threat Lab found 25 crypto scam apps on the Play Store. Google removed those apps, but plenty more are lurking in the store and new ones are added regularly.

Apple’s case might be even worse, as the company has based its sales model on its closed system being more secure. The company argues that it carefully scrutinizes the apps on its store, which is in its users’ best interest. That’s one of the reasons why Apple has managed to win anti-trust cases against federal prosecutors and app creators in the past.

Yet Apple’s methods don’t seem to have paid off, as it’s suffering from the same crypto scam issues as the Google Play Store.

App Stores under Fire for Not Protecting Users

“While cryptocurrency apps have offered investors easy and convenient ways to trade cryptocurrency, reports have emerged of fake crypto apps that have scammed hundreds of investors,” Sen. Brown wrote in his letter to the two companies. The senator also asked Apple and Google what information they provided to consumers about the fake investment apps.

Part of Senator Brown's letter to Apple and Google asking how they detect crypto app scams
Senator Brown asked Apple and Google 5 major questions about how they handle crypto apps and scams.

Both companies have been given until August 10th to release a formal response. Apple and Google deploy various methods to check for malware and malicious apps automatically, but neither has shared details about its processes in the past. 

Be Careful When Downloading Apps

Apple and Google, for the time being at least, are incapable of keeping malware and scams from making it onto their stores. If you’re interested in cryptocurrency, it’s best to carefully research the apps you want to use and the cryptocurrencies you want to invest in. 

Since crypto phishing scams are popular, be careful when you receive strange messages or emails. Also, monitor your phone for any signs of malware or viruses, and use a VPN app for your Android or iOS device to encrypt your connection. Don’t risk losing your investment by not taking the proper precautions.

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