Turkish Online Casino Disguised as Kids’ Endless-Runner App to Fool Apple

Posted on: April 19, 2021, 02:42h. 

Last updated on: April 19, 2021, 05:09h.

An online casino masquerading as a second-rate iOS endless-runner game for kids has highlighted just how sophisticated rogue online casinos have become at evading detection.

Open up the JungleRunner 2K21 app (left) in Turkey and you get something very different (right). (Image: Gadgets 360)

First spotted by Kosta Eleftheriou, an app developer and exposer of scam software, JungleRunner 2K21 is ostensibly a game that allows children aged 4+ to control a goofy banana-collecting monkey.

Or at least it was. Since Eleftheriou exposed JungleRunner 2K21 as a secret online casino last week, it has been removed from the App Store.

The JungleRunner game was real enough, complete with bugs and spelling errors, and kids who played it were not in any danger of being exposed to gambling. Unless they were in Turkey.

Eleftheriou discovered that when he set his VPN to that country and launched the app, he went straight to a full-fledged Turkish-language online casino.

Chameleon Apps

This was a so-called chameleon app, in this case designed to conceal its true purpose, which violated Apple’s regulations.

The tech giant allows gambling apps in the App Store. But an operator must prove it abides by the local laws, regulations, and industry standards of the market it is targeting.

In Turkey, online gambling has been strictly illegal since 2006, and authorities have taken considerable steps to crack down on rogue operators in recent years.

Eleftheriou notes, too, that the casino operator hiding behind JungleRunner appears to be less than reputable. People in the reviews complain they deposited large sums with the promise of matched bonuses, which they never received.

Tech website The Verge has since discovered that the same developer, “Colin Malachi,” has another game in the App Store called “Magical Forest – Puzzle.” This is a simplistic children’s jigsaw game that links to another Turkish-facing online casino when using a VPN server based in Turkey.

Under Attack

In August 2018, Apple found itself under attack by Chinese state media for failing to protect Chinese citizens from apps that contained gambling and pornography. According to the state television network, the Chinese App Store was facilitating the distribution of illegal online lottery apps disguised as innocuous programs.

A year later, Apple and Google announced they had purged hundreds of chameleon apps from their stores, which had been disguised as anything from weather trackers to platforms for wine lovers.

Some of these had been included in Top 100 lists and had been rated over 100,000 times. Many were straight-up copies of existing apps created by legitimate businesses.

In some cases, it was found that the fraudulent apps outranked the real ones.