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Technology

Sketchy app developers have a new trick to force you into giving a good review

Social media seems to be all about the likes, thumbs up and followers. This creates a rather unrealistic perception of how popular something is. Instagram ran several tests on posts that removed the number of likes on a photo, but they have been rather quiet about it after a review.

As with social media, apps are also somewhat superficially measured by the number of downloads, reviews and users. An app with lots of positive reviews must be good, right? Well, not always.

Disregarding fake reviews or reviewing bombing, a straight correlation can’t be drawn between the two. However, a particular app developer is taking the concept of fake reviews to a new level and turning it into forced reviews.

Here’s the backstory

Security researcher and self-proclaimed “professional AppStore critic” Kosta Eleftheriou discovered an app that refuses you entry until you give it a five-star review on Apple’s App Store. The UPNP Xtreme app, according to Eleftheriou, contravenes several Apple regulations.

To make matters worse, it seems that Apple either can’t or won’t do anything about it. As Eleftheriou points out on Twitter, it’s a legitimate review pop-up from the App Store.

“If you think you can trust App Store ratings, you haven’t been paying enough attention. This is the iOS system rating prompt, not a custom look-alike one. The worst part? This trick is EXTREMELY easy for any developer to do, and not limited to this app,” he tweeted.

We previously reported on other flaws discovered by Eleftheriou. Particularly the Privacy Assistant: StringVPN app, which the fake VPN app was discovered to be ripping people off.

The UPNP Xtreme app supposedly allowed users to stream mobile content to their televisions. When the malpractice came to light, the application had over 15 million downloads.

Eleftheriou adds: “Apple also says they conduct a ‘robust’ review process – yet this fraud takes place immediately upon launching the app. Even an automated check would have caught this! But with no competing app stores on iOS, Apple doesn’t care enough to improve their ways.”

What you can do about it

If you come across an app that requires a review for you to continue, stop using the application and delete it. Developers can make millions in revenue from unscrupulous behavior, and actions like these must be reported to Apple.

Before downloading an app:

  • Check that the reviews are legitimate.
  • If there are more positive reviews than negative ones, go through a couple to see if bots might have submitted them.
  • The golden rule: if something seems suspicious, don’t download it.
  • Do some research on the app, and where possible, on the developer.

Update: Since the app has been receiving a lot of media attention, it has been removed from Apple’s App Store.

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