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Apple's iTunes store bans developer, claiming he engaged in fraudulent activity

July 6, 2010 |  3:32 pm

Apple Inc. said Tuesday it has banned a Vietnamese developer from its popular applications store after he allegedly engaged in fraudulent activity.

The company also removed an undisclosed number of applications from the iTunes store, which offers free and paid applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

“Developer Thuat Nguyen and his apps were removed from the App Store for violating the developer program license agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns,” Apple said in a statement.

The company did not provide any other details about the incident, which came to light after customers complained that their accounts had been accessed to buy applications from Nguyen.

Nguyen could not be reached for comment.

Over the weekend, technology blogs reported a scam had hit the iTunes store. said that Nguyen had gamed the system to nab 42 of the top 50 sales positions in the store’s book category at one point. According to reports, the scam affected a few hundred customers, with some being charged as much as $600 for e-books they had not purchased.

Technology blog The Next Web claims a number of rogue applications are scamming users in the iTunes store.

Apple said developers do not receive any confidential data about customers when they download an application. It did not say whether any customer accounts were compromised. Affected customers should contact their financial institutions and change their iTunes passwords.

Security breaches are an unfortunate fact of life for technology services, which are frequently hit by scammers and hackers. Any breach of security is unwelcome, and this one could raise questions for Apple, which has enjoyed enormous success selling applications via its iTunes store. 

More than 100 million accounts have been opened, many linked to credit cards, and with the release of the iPhone 4 and the iPad tablet, sales of mobile applications are expected to accelerate.

Apple is famous for how tightly it controls which applications can be offered in the store, which has given rise to controversy, for example, when it rejected a competing product, Google Voice, from Silicon Valley arch rival Google Inc. Developers complain about the lengthy process. But that meticulous approach boosts security, said Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin.

"Here we have one small instance of the Apple App store being gamed a little bit. It's testimony to just how good a job Apple has done in terms of curating that app qualification and verification process," Golvin said. "It's been so rare that its rarity is the newsworthiness."

-- Jessica Guynn