A new wave of Bitcoin-mania surged through the internet this weekend—and with it, a new crop of sketchy opportunists. Bitcoin apps were very popular in the Apple app store, and one using the name of a completely unrelated cryptocurrency wallet service now holds the number three position in the finance category.
TechCrunch noticed the imposter app early Monday morning. MyEtherWallet.com is named by many enthusiast sites as one of the best wallet services for storing Ethereum tokens and other cryptocurrencies. It does not have a mobile app for the iPhone, but you can find one called “MyEtherWallet” with a similar-looking logo on the app store at the time of this writing. The people behind the original service tweeted out a warning to users late on Saturday.
People who trade in cryptocurrencies usually use wallets as a way to store their holdings securely. They can ensure that you retain personal control over your cryptocurrency while trading on an exchange, and it’s encrypted with a private key. There are different types of wallets, but the best kind either link an encrypted wallet to an exchange and don’t share personal keys with a third party, or they store personal data locally. But beware, if you end up giving your keys to a scammer by accident, you can kiss all that digital money goodbye.
We have no idea if the makers of the MyEtherWallet lookalike app have nefarious intentions, but the fact that the app assumed the name of a popular (unrelated) service is enough to warn everyone to steer clear of it. The developer listed in the store, Nam Le, has released a few games and a counting app for the Apple Watch. Nothing about their previous work indicates that they have experience with encryption, and even if the developer isn’t trying to steal personal keys, they’re charging $4.99 for the app, while MyEtherWallet.com is free and open-source software (FOSS).
With its complicated vetting procedures for approving apps, Apple can give the impression that any app in its store is safe. While Android commonly has trouble with fraudulent apps, Apple has a strong track record. That still doesn’t mean it can’t make a mistake. We’ve reached out to the company for comment, and to ask what the status of MyEtherWallet will be, and we’ll update this post when we receive a reply.
The launch of Bitcoin futures, a way for traditional investors to bet on the price of Bitcoin, had the community on the edge of its seat this weekend, and likely attracted many new investors looking to give cryptocurrency a try. Widespread phishing claims related to Bitcoin were reported on Tumblr. Anyone who’s just getting in the game is better off sticking with Coinbase and doing further research from there. The scams are only going to get worse.
Update 3:37 PM: Apple issued a statement to Reuters on Monday afternoon that said MyEtherWallet has been removed from the App Store. A spokesperson declined to say how many people had downloaded the app, or whether customers will receive a refund.