Apple says sideloading apps on iPhone would 'cripple privacy and security'

Apple says sideloading apps on iPhone would ‘cripple privacy and security’

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iPhone sideloading isn't safe, Apple says
iOS restrictions make it safer than Android, Apple says.
Image: Apple

iOS is safer than Android because you cannot sideload apps onto an iPhone, Apple says. The company this week published a document in response to the European Commission’s proposal that could force Apple to allow third-party app marketplaces, which points out the many risks (as Apple sees it) with that plan.

Titled “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps,” the 31-page PDF argues that allowing the sideloading of apps on iPhone “would cripple the privacy and security protections that have made iPhone so secure.”

iOS safer because it doesn’t allow sideloading apps

Sideloading is the process of downloading and installing apps from the web or third-party marketplaces. iPhone has never allowed this, at least officially, but it is a freedom that has always been enjoyed by Android users. According to Apple, that makes Google’s platform a lot less secure than iOS.

“Over the past four years, Android devices were found to have 15 to 47 times more malware infections than iPhone,” Apple points out, before it highlights a long list of risks that iPhone users could face should Cupertino be forced to allow third-party app marketplaces on its devices.

One of those risks is that it would make iPhone more vulnerable to “harmful” apps because it would be easier to cybercriminals to target Apple devices. The documents points to the malware already present on third-party app marketplaces for Android, which “shows that they do not have sufficient vetting procedures to check for apps containing known malware.”

Apple also argues that iPhone users would “have less information about apps up front, and less control over apps after they download them onto their devices.” And that allowing the sideloading of apps would mean removing some of the protections Apple has implemented to protect its devices.

Everyone would suffer

Some might argue that it should be up to the user to keep themselves safe, and that they should be able to choose where they get their software — just like you can on other operating systems, including macOS. If you want to install software from other sources, then it’s at your own risk, right?

But Apple explains that if it had to make these changes, then every iPhone user would be affected — not just those who choose to sideload apps. It would have to weaken its protections on every device (though it could be argued that iOS could be “locked” with the same protections we’re used to by default, then unlocked by those who the freedom to install apps from elsewhere).

Apple’s document includes a quote from Steve Jobs, which reads:

We’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once: provide an advanced and open platform for developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc.

This is no easy task.

Backing up Apple’s claims

The document goes on to back up Apple’s claims by citing expert sources, including European Agency for Cybersecurity, which advises against installing apps from third-party sources on Android. It also includes a quote from Europol, which reads, “Only install apps from official app stores.”

“Users should avoid (and enterprises should prohibit on their devices) sideloading of apps and the use of unauthorized app stores,” reads another quote from the Department of Homeland Security.

Apple’s document is an interest, albeit time-consuming read for those who are interested in iOS security, and the consequences of third-party app stores.