Less Than One Day Open, Hackers Target Apps in Mac App Store
That didn’t take long … Within hours of the Mac App Store launching, hackers figured out how to circumvent the apps’ DRM (digital rights management). What are the implications now and how could this affect future digital distributions?
DRM is well-hated among hackers on the Internet, and it should come as no surprise that DRM on iTunes music and movies have been stripped from the get-go. It’s a cat-and-mouse game between hackers and Apple with each version of iTunes. The same is true for hackers running Mac OS X on generic hardware.
Now that the Mac App Store hackers have no intention of resting on their laurels.
I won’t describe how to hack the apps, but nearly anyone could do it. It involves replacing the files inside a free application into the ‘guts’ of a paid application that has been purchased by someone and then shared on the Internet. Once you swap out the paid apps files with those DRM-approved files from your free app (like Twitter), the App loads up and doesn’t know the difference between running on your Mac or the Mac it originated from. And neither does Apple.
The origins of the hack were revealed on Pastebin.com, which is a site used for quickly sharing and distributing code. The original Pastebin article is gone because it violated terms of service, but the secret is still out there.
What does this mean for Apple and developers? Essentially, more of the same from what all content creators are used to: making sure they’re creating a compelling product people want to pay for, plus looking to Apple — the guardian of the walled garden — to create an environment that developers feel safe putting their hearts and souls into.
I don’t believe this kind of hole will be open for much longer, but that doesn’t mean hackers won’t stop trying. Hackers aren’t hacking the App Store simply to get stuff for free; rather, most simply want to try an app before they buy, or at least have the ability to return an app if they don’t like it (much like they can with Google Marketplace).
For now, it’s still mostly “buyer beware” in the digital landscape, but it’s likely consumers could feel better about making digital purchases if they knew there was some recourse after buying an unsatisfactory app. Apple has enough weight and clout to change that, but time will tell if it does.