An app masquerading as MyEtherWallet.com, one of the internet’s most popular services for storing ETH and other crypto coins, has made its way to the top of the iOS App Store charts.
The app rose to the number three spot in Finance category of the App Store this weekend as part of a bitcoin frenzy that saw exchange Coinbase top Apple’s free download list in the U.S. In this case, however, it is important to note this app is not official so users should avoid downloading it.
The app developer — who is listed as Nam Le — has three other apps with Apple, including two panda fighting games, but no history of crypto or bitcoin services.
The creators of MyEtherWallet said in a tweet that they have contacted Apple in a bid to have the app removed.
We’ve reached out to Apple to get an idea how it made it through all of the standard safety checks, and to ask whether it will remain in the App Store.
The iOS app costs $4.99 and it first landed on the App Store just over a week ago. It allows users to create or import a wallet to store cryptocurrencies independently of an exchange.
The app notes claim all keys are stored on device, but nevertheless granting an unknown developer full trust of wallet information, be it importing an existing wallet or creating a new one, is certainly ill-advised.
A crypto wallet consists of a public address where money is sent to, that’s shareable, and a private key that grants the wallet owner access — that should never be shared and should be kept securely. Wallets are popular with cryptocurrency owners because they ensure that an exchange doesn’t own your coins and, as the case of the explosion of one-time bitcoin darling Mt. Gox shows, you get to keep hold of your money even if all goes wrong at the exchange.
Threats aside, the app is also highly unethical/illegal. The developer is monetizing free and open-source software (FOSS), as MyEtherWallet pointed out on Twitter.
It isn’t clear how many downloads the app has gotten, but notes from the most recent update are thankful for users’ “early feedbacks.” Tracking service Apptopia told TechCrunch that it estimates that the app has seen around 3,000 downloads so far.
Apple’s App Store vetting process is notably more rigorous than much of the competition, so it’s curious that the service not only skyrocketed up the charts, but has also secured an ad on the store. The episode is another sign of just how mainstream bitcoin and crypto has become. In this case, Apple may not be aware of what exactly it has allowed into its App Store.
The irony of Apple allowing a crypto knockoff app into the App Store won’t be lost on regular watchers who will recall that the U.S. firm has removed all VPN apps from China this year at the behest of the government. VPNs, which are crucial for helping those in censored countries access a free internet, were among the 600-plus apps that Apple itself said it has removed from Chinese version of the App Store in 2017.
Update: The app appears to no longer be live in the iOS app store as of 1PM ET