A Vietnamese app developer apparently hacked into numerous iTunes accounts over the holiday weekend to boost the standing of his comics apps in the iTunes store.
Doing scanlators one better, the developer Thuat Nguyen reportedly not only made bootleg versions of Japanese manga such as Dragon Ball and Detective Conan (known in the U.S. as Case Closed), he somehow got into a number of other people's iTunes accounts and bought the apps, driving 40 of them into the top 50 apps listing. While this takes a certain ingenuity, it's a strategy that is unlikely to succeed, as Apple e-mails receipts to iTunes users, and people quickly noticed that something was amiss.
Apple has removed the offending apps from the iTunes store, but the story is not over. MacStories is reporting that other apps have popped up unbidden in people's accounts, and The Next Web says that what appears to be happening is that the apps themselves use in-app purchasing to purchase more apps or, in one case, just send money to the developer. This last post also has some helpful advice — check your account, change your password, consider removing your credit card details. Because this happened on a holiday weekend, Apple has been slow to respond, but hopefully they will step up today and issue some refunds.
This has serious implications for anyone, comics creators included, who wants to make money selling comics through the iTunes store. If people stop trusting Apple with their credit card info and only use gift cards, they will be spending money in finite amounts, rather than a continuous stream, and they are likely to become more conscious of the amount they are spending—better for the consumer, perhaps, but not so good for the seller. And it may make people skittish about in-app purchases as well, unless the problem is swiftly and firmly resolved.