The value of Bitcoin is surging once again, and that has turned some moderately wealthy crypto enthusiasts into millionaires. Phillipe Christodoulou was one of them with his hoard of 17.1 Bitcoins, worth just over $1 million at today’s exchange rates. However, he recently made the mistake of downloading an app from the iOS App Store. In the blink of an eye, his fortune was gone, and he blames Apple.
Unlike traditional banking and fiat currency, there’s no backup and no legal framework that can retrieve stolen cryptocurrency. If you lose access to the bits of data that represent your digital money, it’s gone forever. People have routinely thrown out huge fortunes with the trash or accidentally beamed millions of dollars to the wrong anonymous digital wallets. Christodoulou thought he was doing everything right by keeping his Bitcoins on a secure hardware wallet called Trezor, but then he went looking for a Trezor app in the App Store.
Apple has long claimed its application repository is superior to Google’s because it’s highly curated and more secure. Every app on the App Store goes through a review process, leading to uncountable horror stories about developers who are unable to publish or update apps because of some esoteric rule or content violation. The fake Trezor app made it through just fine, though.
Trezor uses a website for PIN authentication before the hardware wallet is unlocked, and it seems Christodoulou figured there would be an app. The company doesn’t make one, though. The scam app had five stars and looked legit, but after he used the app to unlock his wallet, those 17.1 Bitcoins were gone forever. Christodoulou is upset with the thieves, of course, but he’s reserving most of his venom for Apple itself. “They betrayed the trust that I had in them,” Christodoulou told the Washington Post.
It’s easy to empathize with Christodoulou. Apple has been telling people to download with confidence for years, citing its careful curation of the walled garden. Apple has confirmed there are more of these Bitcoin scams hiding in the App Store’s nearly 2-million-strong catalog. However, it won’t talk about the scale of the problem. Google is not immune, either. There are fake Trezor apps appearing over there as well, but the Android scammers haven’t hit the jackpot as they did with Christodoulou.
Apple has refused to identify the scammer account or state whether it has provided information to law enforcement. It’s unlikely anything will get Christodoulou his Bitcoins back. Anyone with a large crypto cache is advised to be very careful which apps they use to access it.
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