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12 September 2018, 01:24 | Jodi Jackson
No.1 Adware Removal App On Apple App Store Caught Spying On Mac Users
It's emerged that a number of apps from the Mac App Store have been secretly gathering user data and uploading it to remote servers. Apple then removed both Dr Unarchive and Dr Cleaner from the App Store for violating the rules.
However, it was able to return to the app store after it changed its name to Adware Doctor. Until removal, all products were top-sellers, with thousands of positive reviews that averaged their ratings between 4.6 and 4.9. At least a handful of apps available for Mac users that ask for that permission are using that access to steal user data such as browsing history and then upload that history to analytics servers.
Adware Medic was a direct copy of an app developed by Malwarebytes.
Until Reed's post, that is. Inspection of the files showed access to recent Google searches on Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, as well as browser history, a complete list of apps on the system including the download location for the apps.
iOS developer and 9to5Mac writer Guilherme Rambo found that Trend Micro's Dr. Unarchiver was also siphoning user data. The process of stealing user data starts after unzipping the app and the user seeing an offer to "Quick Clean Junk Files". He notes that he worked closely with @privacyis1st to compile the report. Also, the researcher did not have a chance to look closer into this, but from his experience with analyzing APT malware, this looks like a valid theory.
After this came to light, Apple pulled the apps from the store.
We reached out to Trend Micro for a statement on the matter but received no reply at the time of publishing. Apple is making some privacy improvements in macOS Mojave which should prevent apps from stealing a user's browsing history but given how a company lays so much emphasis on the privacy and security of its users, this should not have happened in the first place.
The two apps that users say are guilty of this are called "Dr. Unarchiver" and "Dr".
The firm said this was done for "security purposes", in order to analyse whether a user had recently encountered adware or other threats.
Trend Micro is yet to explain the connection with shady apps from other developers and why the its products were removed from the App Store.
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