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This article was published on June 23, 2021


Apple: Only our App Store can protect your iPhone from sideloaded malware

Switch to Android for sideloading

Apple: Only our App Store can protect your iPhone from sideloaded malware
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Apple has long argued against having alternative app stores and allowing sideloaded apps on the iPhone. In its latest effort to convince you, the company has released a whitepaper describing the bad effects of sideloading and how the App Store is the best protection against them.

The whitepaper also highlights the importance of the role of the App Store to protect your data and let you safely download apps. The company argues that the App Store is designed to block and detect attacks, but sideloading changes this threat model and allows attackers “more resources to develop sophisticated attacks.”

Apple has given many examples describing the pitfalls of sideloading on Android based on previous reports. These risks include losing data privacy, downloading a copycat through another app store or a website, an increased chance of installing an app with malware, and installing a game that passes parental controls and exposes children to harm.

We’ve seen examples of a fake Netflix app and COVID-19 trackers on Android.

Example of a fake Netflix app.
Example of a fake Netflix app.

The iPhone maker has also argued that the App Store’s review processes and automated scanning also protects you from malicious apps. Notably, Google has bolstered its Play Protect program over the years with an Advanced Protection service for businesses that blocks sideloading of apps.

Apple’s new whitepaper comes on the back of its lengthy trial against Epic, in which it argued profusely against having third-party app stores on iPhones.

During the trial, the company’s chief of software, Craig Federighi, said that the level of malware on Macs is unacceptable. However, he noted that there are many more iPhones out there as compared to Macs, and they’re designed to keep children in mind. So, while you can install third-party apps on the Mac, Apple believes it’s a dangerous practice for iPhones.

In an interview with Fast Company, Apple’s head of user privacy, Erik Neuenschwander, argued that protection on iPhones is more critical as they’re with you all the time:

It’s the device you carry around with you. So it knows your location. And therefore somebody who could attack that would get pattern-of-life details about you. It has a microphone, and therefore that’s a microphone that could be around you much more than your Mac’s microphone is likely to be. So the kind of sensitive data [on the iPhone] is more enticing to an attacker.

With this new document, the company is trying to reiterate this point.

You can read the full whitepaper titled “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps” here.

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