Apple & Google are cracking down on
real-money mobile gambling chameleon apps found in their respective
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Following a swift heads-up from an online security company, Apple and Google are both cracking down on the growing presence of falsified apps that are granting access to real-money casino games by players in jurisdictions where such games are illegal. Trend Micro is calling them “chameleon apps”; capable of delivering disguised content to users all over the world.
Real-Money Mobile Gambling Chameleon Apps
Chameleon apps are a particularly clever way of
reaching players in locations where online gambling is illegal. The
applications themselves are set up kind of like a puzzle box. It
looks like an ordinary box, and doesn’t do anything special until the
holder presses the right spot. Then suddenly the box opens up into
something completely different.
That’s basically how chameleon apps work, with
the sole purpose of tricking mobile app stores, like Google Play and
the Apple iTunes Store, into believing the apps have an entirely
different use or purpose. And they are – to an extent. Such apps
are capable of delivering a perfectly lawful experience until the end
user performs whatever special action is required to flip the virtual
switch, thereby unlocking the illegal gambling content.
It could appear to be something as simple as a
weather app, a hotel booking app, or one of many entertainment-style
apps (music, games, fashion, etc.). All of the information for the
content on the app store is legitimate. During the app store’s review
process, launching the app presents the exact same legitimate service
advertised. But beneath all those surface layers is the true
application hiding within.
Making the Switch
Developers of these culprit-apps integrate
what’s known as a “switch”. This clandestine switch gives product
managers the ability to activate and deactivate the hidden content at
will. Once the application passes the review process, they flip the
switch. At that point, anyone who launches the app gets the mobile
casino content within instead of the content advertised on the app
In this way, the developers are able to promote
their illegal products on a website that links to the application on
the Apple and/or Google app stores. The end result – chameleon
mobile casino apps that don’t show their true colors until Apple and
Google are convinced they are worthy of placement in their respective
These apps have become so popular that many of
them actually made their way onto the Apple App Store’s Top 100 list of highest-rated downloads. This proves two contemptible points;
1) app stores have yet to rein in the deluge of ‘fake reviews’
praising apps to give them trending status; and 2) players are
finding, appreciating, and utilizing these apps, despite their
unlawful status in some regions of the world.
The Jig Is Up!
According to a publication by Trend Micro on Thursday, it was their online security company that was responsible for unearthing the presence of countless real-money mobile gambling chameleon apps on Google Play and the iOS App Store. With sufficient evidence in hand, Trend Micro immediately sent its findings to the platform suppliers, who worked swiftly to remove all of the culprit-apps from their respective stores.
Trend Micro does note, however, that of the
hundreds of chameleon gambling apps they’ve come across so far, none
were infected with a virus or malware of any sort. Illegal in some
regions, yes, but in no way malicious or harmful to a user or their
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