Apple Fights Sideloading

Apple StoreApple has published a 16-page report to argue its case that the company should not be forced to allow sideloading of apps onto iPhones, contending that this would undermine security and trust in the company’s devices. The publication, “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps” offers an overview of the security measures currently used by Apple and how they could allegedly be undermined if sideloading is made mandatory.

Apple has long been criticized by regulators and other companies in the industry that have lobbied for sideloading of apps onto iPhones, i.e., allowing users to access apps without having to go through Apple’s App Store. The House Judiciary Committee in Washington is currently debating a number of bills intended to address monopolies in the technology industry, and Apple fears this will lead to sideloading being forced on the company.

It is not only in the US that Apple’s monopoly on apps is being challenged: in the EU, the Digital Markets Act, currently under consideration, could force Apple to permit sideloading. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has claimed that such mandatory measures would destroy security for iPhones.
Sideloading is already permitted on Apple’s Mac computers, but the company contends that the nature of iPhones is that they carry high levels of personal sensitive data that would be under threat from malware. The Apple report claims that enabling sideloading would mean users would be exposed to malware through third-party app providers and the company’s own App Store. The company claims that third-party providers would not provide the same level of security and privacy currently available through its own portals.

Not everyone in the industry is convinced by this argument; Apple has played up the fact that it has a team of over 500 experts who review 100,000 new apps and updates weekly, but critics point out that this has not prevented malware finding its way onto iPhones, for example with casino software being embedded in apps intended for children and apps charging fraudulent subscription fees. It has also been argued that Apple’s main concern is to protect the 30% commission it charges many app developers for selling apps on the App Store.

Several experts contend that security on iPhones is primarily dependent on the iPhone architecture, not Apple’s control of the apps loaded onto it, but Apple rebuts this, claiming that it is the combination of App Store security and the iPhone system that makes its devices so secure.
While proponents of sideloading say it should be the user’s personal decision whether to allow it on their device, Apple claims that allowing sideloading could allow malicious actors access to iPhone systems in a way that could affect all users, not just those who choose sideloading. The company also claims that developers are better off using the App Store as consumers are more likely to purchase apps when they know they have been through Apple’s security processes.

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