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Fake 'Halo 4' games for iPhone pass through Apple's app review

December 21, 2012|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • At least two games claiming to be iPhone adaptations of the game "Halo 4" have been released recently.
At least two games claiming to be iPhone adaptations of the game "Halo… (Apple iTunes )

Avid gamers and app store junkies beware: Not one, but two, fake "Halo 4" iPhone apps have been released over the last two days.

"Halo 4 for iPhone/iPad is the fourth in the Halo series where Master Chief returns to battle an ancient evil bent on vengeance and annihilation," reads a summary of the game, which was priced at $4.99.

Microsoft just launched the game for Xbox in November.

Apple users who were lured by screenshots of the game and detailed descriptions were met with a rude awakening -- the game turned out to be a simple chess game, according to Gizmodo. One of the developers is listed as "Toan Tran," and the support page links to a website hosted by Weebly.

Infiltrating Apple’s usually rigorous app approval process, the apps’ iTunes displays featured hundreds of fake ratings, most of which gave the game high marks and full names complete with middle initials.

Each review requires a unique Apple ID and login, an indication of the complexity of the scam.

"I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile," one review reads. "“I'll update if I have a poor frame rate as some are claiming."

Of course, there was a critique or two sprinkled in, for good measure. "It took hours for the game to download after I paid for it," reads a review by Gordon E. Montgomery. The reviewer gave the game 5 stars.

The elaborate hoax came just ahead of Apple’s traditional app store freeze, during which developers cannot launch new apps, fix bugs or change prices. The holiday freeze period often sees some of the heaviest app store use, as gamers rush to download the latest and greatest with their newly gifted iOS devices.

The scam was almost immediately detected by gamer Kris Abel. "Found a very fake Halo 4 for iPhone/iPad released into the iTunes Store today with fake star ratings too," Abel tweeted Thursday, including a screenshot of the app.

iTunes has since removed the impostors, which were still available early Friday morning, replacing them with a message that says the offending apps are not available in the U.S. store. An Apple spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

A former senior engineer at Apple told Business Insider earlier this year that the company's app review team is understaffed. "People have this idea that there are 100 people in India doing app reviews," Mike Lee told the publication in July. "Like every other part of Apple, they can't get enough really good people."

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