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Apple says App Store review stopped $1.5B in potential fraud last year

Fortnite maker Epic Games is fighting Apple in court and says the iPhone App Store review process is a sham. Apple says no.

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- 02:26
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Apple is defending its App Store in court.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Fortnite maker Epic Games has been attacking Apple's App Store review process during a lawsuit between the two tech giants, currently being heard in a California court room. Epic cited instances of fraud that Apple's reviewers missed, including a copycat version of its own hit Fortnite online battle game at the heart of the case. Apple says Epic is wrong, and announced Tuesday that its review team stopped more than $1.5 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions last year by keeping nearly a million risky and vulnerable apps out of the store.

Apple said the statistic includes 470,000 fraudulent developer accounts it expelled from its App Store last year. Apple said it blocked an additional 205,000 attempted new accounts from being created, keeping them from being able to submit apps to Apple's storefront in the first place. All told, Apple's teams rejected or removed nearly 1 million new apps and nearly 1 million app updates. Apple's App Store is the only way the company allows people to download apps onto iPhones and iPads.

"It takes significant resources behind the scenes to ensure these bad actors can't exploit users' most sensitive information, from location to payment details," Apple said in a statement. The company didn't respond when asked to provide comparable numbers from 2019 or before.

Apple's anti-fraud announcement is the latest in a series of disclosures from the tech giant as part of its high-profile lawsuit with Epic. Apple kicked Epic's hit Fortnite game out of its App Store last August after Epic purposely broke Apple's rules against using alternative payment processing. Apple says its payment processing and strict app store rules help keep the iPhone secure and protect users from fraud and hacking attacks.

But Epic's lawyers challenged Apple's argument, highlighting instances when the App Store review team failed to stop fraud or other problems. Apple defended its teams by discussing details of its app review process, including how it uses computer programs and a team of more than 500 people to oversee all apps and app updates submitted to its store.

"The mistakes that I've been shown originated from customer and developer complaints," Trystan Kosmynka, a senior director of marketing at Apple, said in court last week. Rather than seeing these messages as signs the App Store team is struggling to do its job, he said, the activity shows people trust the store and want to help keep it safe. "I'm glad they're passionate and email our executives reporting the concerns and that we investigate them quickly and improve on it," he said.

As part of its announcement, Apple said it stopped 3 million stolen credit cards from being used to buy items in its store. It also deactivated 244 million customer accounts and blocked 424 million accounts from being created because they "displayed patterns consistent with fraudulent and abusive activity."