In popular culture, access to an illicit gambling den is as easy as stumbling into the right shop and saying the password — or greasing some palms. Apple’s App Store apparently has a real-life parallel: today, app developer Kosta Eleftheriou discovered a terrible kiddie game that’s actually a front for gambling websites.
The secret password isn’t one you’d be likely to guess: you have to be in the right country —or pretend to be in the right country using a VPN.
But then, instead of launching an ugly monkey-flipping endless runner game filled with typos and bugs, the very same app launches a casino experience:
It’s not the only one, though: the same developer, “Colin Malachi,” had another incredibly basic game on the App Store called “Magical Forest - Puzzle” that was also a front for gambling. I tried them both myself, and here’s some visual evidence:
Here’s what Magical Forest looked like when you opened it from the United States:
I accessed them from a VPN server in Turkey; While Daring Fireball notes that users in other non-US countries like Italy also seem to have been able to access the gambling sites, I tried them with a number of other locations including Italy without success.
Unlike the multi-million dollar App Store scams that Eleftheriou uncovered earlier this year, it’s not hard to see why Apple’s App Store review program might have missed these — they largely look like your typical shovelware if you don’t know the trick, with only a handful of tells... like the fact that Jungle Runner uses a Pastebin for its privacy policies:
It’s not necessarily clear to me that they’d be violating very many of Apple’s App Store policies, either. Gambling apps are permitted by Apple, as long as they’re geo-restricted to regions where that gambling is permitted by law, and you could maybe argue that’s exactly what this developer did by checking your IP address. But I imagine Cupertino would frown on a gambling app masquerading as a kid’s game either way — and Eleftheriou suggests the gambling sites may be scamming people out of money, too.
Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.