Iranians banned from the App Store

BREAKING —Iranian users have not been able to access Apple's App Store all day today, in what appears to be a ban put in place by the US company.

According to reports and sources who spoke with Bleeping Computer, the ban appears to have been put in place earlier today, around noon, GMT.

Users were not able to connect to the Apple App Store to install or update applications. When visiting the App Store, they were instead greeted with the message "The App Store is unavailable in the country or region you’re in".

This ban appears to be IP-based. Meysam Firouzi —an Iranian security researcher— told Bleeping Computer that he successfully connected to the App Store while using a VPN, despite having Iran-related details set on his account.

"[AppStore] why is Iran blocked from the list of countries able to download or update the applications which are available for all the world?," a user rhetorically asked on Twitter. "We are also human and we pay for your products. We should be able to use App Store!"

An Apple spokesperson did not return a request for comment from Bleeping Computer at the time of writing.

Apple previously banned Iranian-made apps

In August 2017, Apple removed all apps created by Iranian developers from the App Store, attributing the move to US-imposed economic sanctions.

Iran's Telecommunication Minister said the ban of Iranian-made apps would probably have a limited effect on the country's economy and tech industry, as the US company had only an 11% market share in the country, according to a report from the New York Times.

At the start of the month, a NY Daily News article cited a report by the National Council of Resistance to Iran (NCRI) claiming that Iranian intelligence services were publishing apps on the Google Play and Apple's App Store "to monitor the activities of their people and to export malware for cyberattacks against the American people."

Apple has never had an official presence in Iran, so the company has rarely spoken regarding its position towards Iranian users.

Update 3/16/18 10:27 AM:

As of around 1 AM EST, Bleeping Computer received a message from Firouzi stating that the App Store was once again accessible in Iran. Apple has still not comment or returned our queries, so we are unsure if this was a mistake or something else that caused the outage.

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