Apple pulls a 'BP' in responding to App Store hack

In the wake of the iTunes security breach, Apple takes a page out of BP's "emergency response" manual

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No matter: Apple is channeling BP CEO Tony Hayward, by noting that the size of the breach is dwarfed by the size of the App Store user base -- 400 accounts is less than 0.0003 percent of iTunes' 150 million users -- just as Hayward suggested that the volume of oil released by Deepwater Horizon was dwarfed by the total volume of the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally, Apple is silent on the issue of "app farms," which The Next Web rightly points out is the bigger question. Even with Thuat Nguyen's applications removed, The Next Web notes many, similar bunches of suspect/worthless apps seem to be selling quite briskly; they also suggest there could be widespread gaming of the App Store ecosystem by fraudsters or unscrupulous "software" firms that have tapped into the iPhone gold mine.

This raises important questions about the ability of Apple to vet new application submissions and to monitor transactions across its network to spot bad, er, apples. As long as fraudsters can game the App Store and dominate different application categories with illicit purchases, legitimate developers will suffer -- both in missed attention and from increasingly suspicious consumers.

As for redress for affected iTunes users, many of whom have incurred charges of hundreds of dollars, Apple said users can appeal to their credit card company to have the charges reversed and -- oh yeah -- change your iTunes password.

Apple has always been a bit prickly when it comes to responding to security questions about its products, and this incident shows the company in true form: saying little and volunteering less. We'd be hard put to comment that the lack of transparency has hurt the company, which recently surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable software company in the world. But if past incidents are any guide, Apple would do well to come clean with what it knows about the breach and take concrete steps to plug the holes that this incident has exposed, lest it die the death of a thousand cuts as more affected users step forward, corrections are issued, and faith/trust in the company diminishes.

This article, "Apple pulls a 'BP' in responding to App Store hack," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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