Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Alerts Users In 92 Nations To Mercenary Spyware Attacks

Apple sent threat notifications to iPhone users in 92 countries on Wednesday, warning them that they may have been targeted by mercenary spyware attacks,TechCrunch reported.

The company said it sent the alert levels to individuals in 92 nations at 12 p.m. Pacific Time Wednesday. The notification, which TechCrunch has seen, did not disclose the attackers’ identities or the countries where users received notifications.

“Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID – xxx-,” it wrote in the warning to affected customers.

“This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it’s never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning – please take it seriously,” Apple added in the text.

Apple Support posted “About Apple threat notifications and protecting against mercenary spyware” From the post:

Apple threat notifications are designed to inform and assist users who may have been individually targeted by mercenary spyware attacks, likely because of who they are or what they do. Such attacks are vastly more complex than regular cybercriminal activity and consumer malware, as mercenary spyware attackers apply exceptional resources to target a very small number of specific individuals and their devices. Mercenary spyware attacks cost millions of dollars and often have a short shelf life, making them much harder to detect and prevent. The vast majority of users will never be targeted by such attacks.

BleepingComputer reported Apple has been notifying iPhone users in 92 countries about a “mercenary spyware attack” attempting to remotely compromise their device.

In a sample notification the company shared with BleepingComputer, Apple says that it has high confidence in the warning and urgent the recipient to take seriously.

According to BleepingComputer, to protect against such attacks, Apple recommends a set of immediate actions that include enabling lockdown mode on the device, updating the iPhone and any other Apple products to the latest software version, and seeking expert assistance such as that from the Digital Security Helpline – a non-profit that provides technical support at no cost for journalists, activists, and human rights defenders.

When describing mercenary spyware attacks, the notification highlights NSO Group’s Pegasus kit and says that they are exceptionally well-funded, sophisticated, and target a small number of individuals. 

Apple also updated its support page on the spyware protection yesterday, replacing the term “state sponsored” with “mercenary spyware,” noting that these attacks are ongoing and global and sometimes involve private companies that develop spying tools for state actors.

In my opinion, Apple did the right thing by reporting about the mercenary spyware that might be targeting someone’s iPhone. 

Justice Department Risks Picking The Wrong Fight With Apple

With its lawsuit against Apple, the Justice Department focuses on outdated issues and irrelevant points, missing an opportunity to address more pressing concerns, Bloomberg reported.

According to Bloomberg, despite the friendly image that Apple Inc. cultivates, it’s a hard-driving company behind the scenes. Just ask the many suppliers that Apple has abruptly dropped or the app developers it has put out of business.

Apple also hasn’t been one to welcome openness or competition. It refused to bring its iMessage app to Android phones and only agreed to adopt the cross-platform RCS messaging system under mounting pressure. Apple makes developers use its in-app purchase system, shuns cloud-gaming services, and has been reluctant to open up its tap-to-pay chip to outside apps — all because it wants to protect its kingdom from rivals.

That’s provided the U.S. Department of Justice with plenty of fodder for its antitrust lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday. But the case relies mostly on outdated arguments and cites problems that Apple is already resolving. It even levels the dubious claim that Apple makes its products worse in order to harm rivals.

Bloomberg reported: Here are the five main issues that the Justice Department is hanging its hat on:

  • Apple has hindered the development of “super apps,” software like WeChat in China that includes several mini apps.
  • The company hasn’t supported cloud streaming game services, which run off a data center and can be delivered to the iPhone for playback.
  • Apple has barred third-party texting apps on the iPhone from sending SMS messages, and its own messaging software doesn’t work on Android.
  • There’s a lack of support on the iPhone for third-party smartwatches, including the ability to get some notifications.
  • Apple doesn’t let third-party apps use its tap-to-pay technology to make in-person payments.

Impending innovation. Reducing consumer choice. Extending dominance to other markets. These are accusations that the Justice Department leveled against a technology giant it accused of running an illegal monopoly. But they aren’t from this week’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple — they’re from the case the department brought against Microsoft in 1998, The New York Times reported.

The move against Apple is, along with the Justice Department’s 2020 lawsuit against Google over search, perhaps the most ambitious tech antitrust battle since the Clinton administration’s effort to open up Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

And federal prosecutors are explicitly connecting the Apple lawsuit to that earlier fight. 

According to the New York Times, the Justice Department sees a direct connection between the two cases. “Microsoft” appears 26 times in the Apple complaint. And prosecutors say Apple wouldn’t have achieved its current towering success had it not been for the government’s fight against Microsoft:

“The iPod did not achieve widespread adoption until Apple developed a cross-platform version of the iPod and iTunes for Microsoft’s Windows operating system, at the time, the dominant operating system for personal computers. In the absence of the consent decree in United States v. Microsoft, it would have been more difficult for Apple to achieve this success and ultimately launch the iPhone.”

In my opinion, it seems like the Department of Justice is very interested in going after Apple. And now, we wait and see what happens.

U.S. DOJ Sues Apple Alleging The Company Blocked Competitors From Accessing iPhone Features

The U.S. accused Apple of monopolizing the smartphone market in a landmark antitrust lawsuit that threatens to disrupt the tech giant’s business model and how millions of consumers use their iPhones, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Justice Department, 15 states and the District of Columbia sued Apple on Thursday, alleging the tech giant makes it difficult for competitors to integrate with the iPhone, ultimately raising prices for consumers. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New Jersey, said that Apple tries to keep users from switching to devices on outside operating systems, such as Android smartphones.

Apple “has maintained its power, not because of its superiority, but because of its unlawful exclusionary behavior,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press event. 

The tech company controls more than 65% of the U.S. smartphone market, Garland said.

Apple said it plans to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple — where hardware, software, and services intersect.”

CNBC reported the Department of Justice sued Apple on Thursday, saying its iPhone ecosystem is a monopoly that drove its “astronomical valuation” at the expense of consumers, developers and rival phone makers.

According to CNBC, the government has not ruled out breaking up one of the largest companies in the world, with a Justice Department official saying on a briefing call that structural relief was on the table if the U.S. were to win.

The lawsuit claims Apple’s anti-competitive practices extend beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch businesses, citing Apple’s advertising, browser, FaceTime and news offerings.

“Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” according to the suit, filed by the DOJ and 16 attorneys general in New Jersey federal court.

TechCrunch reported the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Apple filed on Thursday cites the iPhone maker’s battle against Beeper, the app that aimed to bring iMessage to Android users. 

Beeper gave up on its mission after Apple blocked the app’s efforts late last year. The DOJ referenced the dispute in its lawsuit as an example of Apple controlling “the behavior and innovation of third parties in order to insulate itself from competition.”

In my opinion, there appears to be a chance that the U.S. Department of Justice could impose some penalties on Apple. I think this lawsuit could potentially take a long time to sort out.

Apple Reinstates Epic Developer Account After Public Backlash For Retaliaton

Epic Games wrote: We recently announced that Apple approved our Epic Games Sweden AB developer account. We intended to use that account to bring the Epic Games Store and Fortnite to iOS devices in Europe thanks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). To our surprise, Apple has terminated that account and now we cannot develop the Epic Games Store for iOS. This is a serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing competition on iOS devices…

…In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store. They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices…

…Apple said one of the reasons why they terminated our developer account only a few weeks after approving it was because we publicly criticized their proposed DMA compliance plan. Apple cited this X post from this thread written by Tim Sweeney. Apple is retaliating against Epic for speaking out against Apple’s unfair and illegal practices, just as they’ve done to other developers time and time again.

And there there was an update: “Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account. This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Market Act and hold gatekeepers accountable. We are moving forward as planned to launch the Epic Games Store and bring Fortnite back to iOS in Europe. Onward!”

ArsTechnica reported that Apple has agreed to reinstate Epic Game’s Swedish iOS developer account just days after Epic publicized Apple’s decision to rescind that account. The move once again paves the way for Epic’s plans to release a sideloadable version of the Epic Games Store and Fortnite on iOS devices in Europe.

“Following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our DMA policies,” Apple said in a statement provided to ArsTechnica. “As a result, Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program.”

According to ArsTechnica, Apple’s quick turnaround comes just a day after the European Commission said it was opening an investigation into Apple’s conduct under the new Digital Markets Act and other potentially applicable European regulations. That investigation could have entailed hefty fines of up to “10 percent of the company’s total worldwide turnover,” if Apple was found to be in violation.

In my opinion, it certainly sounds like the two companies were bickering with each other in a way that resembles something that a middle-schooler would do. Hopefully, this spat is over and done with now.

EU Commission Fines Apple €1.8 Billion Over Abusive App Store Rules

The European Commission has fined Apple over €1.8 billion for abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps to iPhone and iPad users (‘iOS users’) through its App Store. In particular, the Commission found that Apple applied restrictions on app developers preventing them form informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside the app (‘anti-steering provisions’). This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.

The infringement

Apple is currently the sole provider of an App Store where developers can distribute their apps to iOS users throughout the European Economic Area (‘EEA’). Apple controls every aspect of the iOS user experience and sets the terms and conditions that developers need to abide by to be present on the App Store and be able to reach iOS users in the EEA.

The Commission’s investigation found that Apple bans music streaming app developers from fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app and from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers. In particular, the anti-steering provisions ban app developers from:

Informing iOS users within their apps about the prices of subscription offers available on the internet outside of the app.

Informing iOS users within their apps about the price differences between in-app subscriptions sold through Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism and those available elsewhere.

Including links in their apps leading iOS users to the app developer’s website on which alternative subscriptions can be bought. App developers were also prevented from contacting their newly acquired users, for instance by email, to inform them about alternative pricing options after they set up an account.

Reuters reported Brussels on Monday fined Apple 1.84 billion euros ($2 billion) for thwarting competition from music streaming rivals via on its App Store, the iPhone maker’s first ever penalty for breaching EU rules.

A basic penalty of 40 million euros was inflated by a huge lump sum included as a deterrent – a first for the European Union’s antitrust authorities. 

According to Reuters, Apple said it would appeal the decision. A ruling at the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second-highest, is likely to take several years. Until then, Apple will have to pay the fine and comply with the EU order.

CNBC reported the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, on Monday hit Apple with a 1.8 billion euro ($1.95 billion) antitrust fine for abusing its dominant position in the market for the distribution of music streaming apps.

Apple also banned developers of music streaming apps from providing any instructions about how users could subscribe to these cheaper offers, the commission alleged.

In my opinion, it would be smarter for Apple to pay the fine and move on, rather than trying to fight the European Commission.

EU To Fine Apple €500 Million Over Music Streaming

Brussels will hit tech giant Apple with a €500 million fine for allegedly breaking EU law over access to its music streaming services, the Financial Times reported Sunday, according to Politico.

The fine would be the EU’s first ever against Apple and is expected to be announced early next month, according to the FT report. It is the result of a European Commission antitrust probe into whether Apple’s “anti-steering” requirements breach the bloc’s abuse of dominance rules, harming music consumers “who may end up paying more” for apps.

The probe is investigating contractual restrictions that Apple imposed on app developers that prevent them from informing iPhone and iPad users of cheaper music subscription options. It was launched after Spotify made a formal complaint to regulators in 2019.

Apple Insider reported that Apple may be the target of a 500 million euro ($538 million) fine from the European Commission, with the regulator expected to impose the charge following its competition probe into how it treats Apple Music’s competitors.

The European Commission has been investigating whether Apple broke antitrust laws following a 2019 complaint from Spotify, which resulted in a 2020 probe launch. Almost four years later, the European Commission is allegedly preparing to hand out punishments.

According to five people with knowledge of the investigation, the Financial Times reports that the Commission is expected to announce a fine against Apple early in March. The fine, thought to be in the ballpark of 500 million euro, will supposedly be accompanied by a ruling that Apple broke EU laws with its App store anti-steering rules.

The Verge reported that Apple will reportedly have to pay around €500 (around $539 million USD) in the EU for stifling competition against Apple Music on the iPhone. Financial Times reported this morning that the fine comes after regulators in Brussels, Belgium investigated a Spotify complaint that Apple prevented apps from telling users about cheaper alternatives to Apple’s music service.

According to The Verge, the issue comes down to Apple’s efforts to keep apps and users corralled inside its App Store payments system. Spotify complained in 2019 that Apple’s policies muted competition. The EU whittled its objections down to oppose Apple’s refusal to let developers even link out to their own subscription sign-ups within their apps – a policy that Apple changed in 2022 following regulatory pressure in Japan.

Apple representative Emma Wilson told The Verge via email that the company is “not commenting on speculation” and referred us to previous statements made by another Apple spokesperson, Hannah Smith, who said in February last year that the company hoped the Commission would stop pursuing the case, which Smith said “has no merit.” European Commission spokesperson Lea Zuber declined to comment.

In my opinion, this is a situation that goes back several years, and appears to be slowly taken up by the EU. And now, it sounds like the EU is intending to impose a fine on Apple.

Meta Tells Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges

Meta announced “New Ways For Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges” From the announcement:

Businesses with limited resources have found tremendous value in advertising through boosted posts to find new customers and have been utilizing them for many years. In fact, nearly all boosted post users are small businesses.

To support the millions of small businesses that use boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can now go to instagram.com and facebook.com on mobile and desktop their content and avoid a 30% Apple service charge.

The Apple service charge is a result of updates Apple made to the App Store Review Guidelines. Starting later this month, when an advertiser uses the Facebook or Instagram iOS app to Boost a post, they will be billed through Apple, which retains a 30% service charge on the total ad payment, before any applicable taxes. This charge is retained by Apple, not Meta.

We are required to either comply with Apple’s guidelines, or remove boosted posts from our apps. We do not want to remove the ability to boost posts, as this would hurt small businesses by making the feature less discoverable and potentially deprive them of a valuable way to promote their business.

We are committed to offering businesses flexible and convenient options to help them navigate this change and maximize the results of their ad spend. As parts of our efforts to do this, we have invested in alternative ways to boost posts.

Specifically, advertisers can access facebook.com and instagram.com on both desktop computers or a mobile web browser to boost their content. When doing this, they will have the same features as boosting posts from the iOS apps, except now they will avoid the Apple service charge…

MacRumors reported that in response to Meta’s announcement, Apple said App Store apps have always been required to use its in-app purchase system for the sale of digital goods and services.

“We have always required that purchases of digital goods and services within apps must use In-App Purchase,” said Apple, in a statement shared with MacRumors today. “Boosting, which allows an individual or organization to pay to increase the reach of a post or profile, is a digital service — so of course, In-App Purchase is required. This has always been the case and there are many examples of apps that do it successfully.”

As part of its response, Apple said that it has indeed given Meta ample opportunity to comply with the App Store Review Guidelines in October 2022. That grace period is clearly ended now.

The Verge reported that Meta is one of many companies that waged criticism against Apple and it’s new policies in recent months. After introducing a 27 percent tax on alternative payment methods in the US, Apple also announced plans to start allowing developers in the European Union to have their apps exist on alternative app stores, as long as they pay a brand-new “Core Technology Fee.”

Overall, I feel like this is a fight between Meta and Apple. Their spat isn’t going to affect people who casually use Facebook or Instagram. That said, it might cause some problems for Meta if advertisers flee.