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Mac App Store giving away pay apps for free

Angry Birds vendor now even angrier

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Security oversights mean that many of the applications in Apple's newly launched Mac App Store can easily be obtained without payment.

A significant number of developers have disregarded Apple's advice on validating App Store receipts before making their software available through the store. As a result, many applications can be pirated.

Applications bought through the store can be modified to run by any Apple user (not just restricted to a specific Apple ID, prompting users to log into an account associated with a sale) without any further purchase. The omitted App Store receipt technology would have prevented this.

Popular application Angry Birds, for example, only checks for a valid receipt (of any type) and not whether this is a receipt for a purchase of this software tied to a specified account. A receipt from any legitimate Mac App Store download - including applications that come free of charge – will allow a bootleg download of Angry Birds to run, as explained here.

As things stand, some Mac App Store developers are potentially out of pocket while Apple misses out on its percentage from legitimate software sales. The App Store, launched along with the publication of OS X 10.6.6, provides a portal for the sale of desktop Mac applications. Customers benefit because it restricts the number of firms with which they are obliged to share their payment details.

The snafu also raises concerns that applications – modified to include back doors – might be uploaded to the App Store.

"Some applications downloaded from the App Store can easily be modified to include any sort of executable code you wish," warns Sophos security consultant Chester Wisniewski. "It wouldn't surprise me to see a surge in markets for pirated applications that might just be booby-trapped to include unexpected surprises." ®

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