The Curious Case of Adware Doctor and the Mac App Store

The Curious Case of Adware Doctor and the Mac App Store, by John Gruber.

What a bizarre story this is. Adware Doctor was a $4.99 app in the Mac App Store from a developer supposedly named Yongming Zhang. The app purported to protect your browser from adware by removing browser extensions, cookies, and caches. It was a surprisingly popular app, ranking first in the Utilities category and fourth overall among paid apps, alongside stalwarts like Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X.

Turns out, among other things, Adware Doctor was collecting your web browser history from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and uploading them to a server in China. Whatever the intention of this was, it’s a privacy debacle, obviously. …

Contrary to some reports, Adware Doctor didn’t find some sort of hole in the sandbox that prevents apps downloaded from the Mac App Store from being able to access the entire file system. The app asked permission from the user, which is the only way Utilities like this can work. Any user who believed in the stated purpose of Adware Doctor would grant this permission though. …

How in the world did this sketchy app get so popular? Was it actually doing anything useful, protecting users from actual harm? It just seems crazy to me that this was the fourth most popular paid app in the store. …

Here’s a report from April 2016 suggesting that the glowing reviews for Yongming Zhang’s apps were all fake. Fake reviews are perhaps the single biggest problem with the App Store. It’s a rampant problem. I really think Apple should crack down on the practice. It’s scummy, and it’s not surprising to find out that a scummy developer would do even more scummy things.

hat-tip Matthew