Apple is now through with cryptomining apps.
In an update to its iOS App Store guidelines for developers, the iPhone maker has included new language that effectively bans cryptomining software from appearing in its app store. This week's update follows a similar ban that Google included in its Web Store. (See Google Web Store Bans Cryptomining Extensions.)
The move by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is the latest development in the world of cryptocurrency, as well as cryptomining, which has become a lucrative target for cybercriminals who have started using malware and cryptojacking software hidden in apps to help mine for Bitcoin and other virtual currencies by tapping into the devices of others and using that compute power.
In a report released within the last week, Check Point researchers confirm that cryptomining schemes have now surpassed ransomware as the number-one attack cybercriminals are using right now. One reason is that the volatility in global cryptocurrency markets have made it much more profitable to mine virtual currency than to go through the trouble of conducting a sophisticated, and expensive, ransomware attack. (See Cryptomining Malware, Cryptojacking Remain Top Security Threats.)
That type of volatility was on display this week when a group hacked into a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, creating havoc with cryptocurrency prices across the globe. (See Bitcoin & Other Cryptocurrency Prices in Flux Following Hack.)
In the case of Apple, the company seems to want to control some of the volatility in its popular App Store.
Specifically, the company has added a new section within its guidelines -- 3.1.5 (b) Cryptocurrencies -- which effectively bans cryptomining apps from the store.
"Mining: Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device (e.g. cloud-based mining)," according to the new guidelines.
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Since malicious actors have started installing malware on devices to mine cryptocurrency, including iPhones and iPads, Apple's new ban goes well beyond previous guidelines that asked developers to create applications that were power efficient and did not have hidden background processes running within the app.
Instead, Apple is outright banning these apps all together.
However, Apple will still let iOS users use Bitcoins and other virtual currencies but through more established channels. For instance, with cryptocurrency wallets users can "facilitate virtual currency storage, provided they are offered by developers enrolled as an organization."
iOS users can also use their devices for what the industry calls initial coin offers, or ICOs, but these transactions must come from "established banks, securities firms, futures commission merchants (FCM), or other approved financial institutions and must comply with all applicable law."
— Scott Ferguson is the managing editor of Light Reading and the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.