Apple Report for Sideloading Apps “Serious” Security Risk

Apple will continue to restrict the sideloading of apps on iOS devices, according to a recently released report. Allowing users to download and install apps from outside of its App Store ecosystem would present “serious risks” and put users in the way of dangerous and potentially malicious content.

Apple’s staunch rules regarding app development and distribution on its platform are well known, with the company ruling the App Store with an iron fist. However, in recent years, developers and regulators have pushed the company to revise some of its rules, alleging uncompetitive and monopolistic practices.

Apple: App Store Protections Vital for Security

We built industry-leading security protections into the device, and we created the App Store, a trusted place where users can safely discover and download apps. On the App Store, apps come from known developers who have agreed to follow our guidelines, and are securely distributed to users free from interference from third parties

Herein lies the crux of Apple’s arguments against allowing users and developers to install apps outside the App Store ecosystem. The statement, taken from an Apple report [PDF] exploring the importance of App Store protections, is one of the main reasons that Apple’s iOS mobile operating system is so safe. There are very few that could argue against Apple’s rationale.

The report further explains that “Allowing sideloading would degrade the security of the iOS platform and expose users to serious security risks” as well as “expose users to scammers who will exploit apps to mislead users, attack iPhone security features, and violate user privacy.”

Malicious Apps: Apple’s App Store vs. Google’s Play Store

Held up against Google’s Play Store, Apple’s App Store is a paragon of how an app store should operate. A cursory internet search will reveal as much, with the Play Store regularly fingered as the main distribution point for mobile malware.

And even while the App Store isn’t free of malware, scams, and other malicious apps, the sheer volume found in the Play Store makes it a much more dangerous proposition for users.

Part of that reason is that Google operates the Play Store more openly than the App Store. As a result, almost anyone can develop and upload an app to the Play Store. Given the number of Android users compared to iOS, there is a far greater chance that someone will download a malicious app.

But the other difference affecting the Android ecosystem is the exact thing Apple’s report warns against: sideloading apps. While the Play Store contains malicious apps that have made it through Google’s security and protection, you can also download and install Android apps from countless third-party websites.

The majority of these websites are unvetted and, as such, present a serious security issue, one that Apple knows only too well, if only through observation of its main competitors.

Uncompetitive Practices at Apple

Critics of the report contend that restricting the sideloading of apps for security is one thing, but forcing every app within the App Store ecosystem to hand over 30 percent of every sale is criminal in itself.

The comments come on the back of the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games case, in which Epic contends that the so-called “Apple tax” is above and beyond a reasonable level of cost. Both companies await the final verdict.

For now, Apple has made it clear: sideloading apps onto iOS devices isn’t happening any time soon. As iOS consistently ranks among the most secure operating systems, why would you want anything different?

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