Security concerns have many Bitcoin users feeling uneasy in recent weeks after learning the new Coinbase iOS app wasn’t developed by Coinbase. Instead, the app was introduced by a third-party developer not directly affiliated with the company. Though the app carries the Coinbase name and logo, users are skeptical of its origins and security standards. The Bitcoin wallet app, which is similar to previous versions recently removed from the iTunes app store, was developed out-of-house by Andrew Vilcsak, who has no official connection to Coinbase.
The Coinbase iOS app
The app store page for the Coinbase iOS app indicates that it can be used for sending and receiving Bitcoin, recording balance and transaction history, and syncing with users’ Coinbase accounts. It provides access to all major operations in Bitcoin.
To run the app, you must have iOS 6.1 or later. It is designed for the iPhone 5, but is aslo compatible with the iPad and iTouch devices. The app is open-source and allows users to create a pin code to access and remotely disable it if lost or stolen.
Users have expressed concern over Coinbase’s decision to back a third-party app rather than release an official app of their own. For most, it seems to be a matter of security.
With open-source development, the developer is able to create apps and content from an unsecured personal computer. Worst case scenario, Coinbase users are nervous that the unofficial app could potentially allow their personal information to be stolen or lost. Some even fear that Vilcsak himself may try to steal their information; however, there are no indicators to support the theory.
Charlie Shrem explained via Reddit:
“I’m very concerned about my privacy and security. I’ve signed a Terms of Service agreement with Coinbase and not this developer. As soon as I logged into this app, Coinbase emailed me asking to authorize the app. At this point, I’m unsure what information is now being shared with this developer, but I cannot take that risk.”
Coinbase users might be justifiably concerned as recent attacks on companies have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in digital currency. One hacker was able to procure $600,000 in Dogecoin by through tech company Synology’s processors last month.
Others feel that the use of Coinbase’s logo reeks of false representation, which Coinbase attempted to deflect in an official Tweet:
“Great to see this community contributed app! We reached out to the dev to review the code and believe it is secure.https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/coinbase-bitcoinwallet/id886427730?mt=8 …”
Besides releasing a statement endorsing the app, Coinbase has not responded to inquiries about the matter.
Another Reason For This?
Ryan Selkis, former venture capitalist and owner of Bitcoin blog Two-Bit Idiot, supports Vilcsak and his credentials. Selkis points out that Vilcsak has been a developer with Airbnb, the popular accommodation website, for over four years. He helped manage and oversee Airbnb’s iOS app and has a wealth of professional experience from which to draw.
Vilcsak, Selkis explains, also worked with Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong during his time at Airbnb. Selkis believes Armstrong may already be working on a deal with the Coinbase app developer to have him come on board within the next few months.
Full Functioning Bitcoin Wallets To Return to iOS
Apple chose to clarify its restrictions on Bitcoin-related apps in early June. The App Store Review guidelines now state:
11.17 Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.
This clarification paves the way for Coinbase to release its own bitcoin wallet app. Whether or not this will happen remains up in the air. If Armstrong and Vilcsak are already in cahoots, it’s a good bet the app and the company will merge in the near future. With Coinbase’s endorsement it seems that the app is good to go, but some users will still wait for an official app before installing the long awaited app back on their iPhones.
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