Hacked versions of iPhone apps such as Spotify, Minecraft and Pokemon Go have been distributed by software pirates who have hijacked Apple’s technology.
Reuters reports that so-called enterprise developer certificates are being used to allow people to stream music without ads and get around fees and rules in games – meaning Apple and legitimate app makers are losing money.
The pirate developers are breaking rules which state apps can only be distributed to the public through the App Store.
Users downloading modified versions are also violating the terms of service of almost all major apps.
The pirates allegedly producing the apps – such as TutuApp, Panda Helper, AppValley and TweakBox – did not respond to requests to comment, Reuters says.
Apple has no way of tracking the spread of modified apps but it can cancel the certificates if it finds misuse.
“Developers that abuse our enterprise certificates are in violation of the Apple Developer Enterprise Program Agreement and will have their certificates terminated, and if appropriate, they will be removed from our Developer Program completely,” an Apple spokesperson told the news agency.
“We are continuously evaluating the cases of misuse and are prepared to take immediate action.”
Enterprise developer certificates are intended to allow businesses to distribute apps to their employees without going through App Store vetting.
Some of the pirate developers were banned by Apple last week, but were reportedly back up again within days using different certificates.
“There’s nothing stopping these companies from doing this again from another team, another developer account,” said Amine Hambaba, head of security at software firm Shape Security.
Apple has now said it will get tougher on the rogue apps by bringing in two-factor authentication – using a code sent to a phone as well as a password – to log into all developer accounts by the end of the month.
Spotify declined to comment on modified apps but has previously said its new terms of service will crack down on users “creating or distributing tools designed to block advertisements”.
Pokemon Go maker Niantic said players cheating by using pirated apps are regularly banned. Microsoft, which owns the hit game Minecraft, also declined to comment.