One step back, two steps forward for iOS app piracy


When I was a teenager, computer piracy involved a twin tape deck and a photocopy of an instruction manual. But in 2013, a fifteen year old has figured out how to pirate iPhone and iPad applications on devices that haven’t been jailbroken.

At the end of last year, Apple bosses will likely have been celebrating the demise of Installous, an unofficial app store that allowed users to download iPhone apps without charge and use them on jailbroken phones as if they had got them from the Apple app store. The need for jailbreaking meant the audience of potential pirates was limited and it was a manageable, if unwelcome problem for Apple and app developers.

Now two more services allowing pirated apps to run have sprung up, this time on any iOS devices. The first, Zeusmos, is reportedly the work of a 15-year-old. It’s billed as a way for users to code sign applications for development purposes; exactly how the tool works isn’t clear, though it appears it involves a developer certificate.

The creator says he is not “supporting or encouraging” its use for piracy, but has said it is a way to “try before you buy.” He’s removed features that made it easier for users to share and promote pirated apps, but it doesn’t appear that this will stop people from being able to use it for illicit purposes. What may particularly attract the attention of lawyers is that although Zeusmos is free for jailbroken devices, people wanting to run it on non-jailbroken devices will have to pay a fee.

Meanwhile a Chinese site, Kuaiyong, is also offering the ability to run pirated apps, this time with no fees whatsoever. In this case it appears the creators have found a way to bypass the system that matches a particular copy of an app to a particular device. It appears that, perhaps through a misused enterprise license, they are able to simply copy and distribute the same files over and over.

It will be interesting to see how popular such services become, particular considering that one of the many supposed justifications for piracy (the high cost of legitimately-sold software) doesn’t really stand up in the world of apps costing a few dollars.

Note: Geeks Are Sexy does not condone or encourage software piracy. We have mentioned the names of the services because they are already in the public domain: our mention is not intended as an endorsement.

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