Apple has responded to the European Commission’s proposed Digital Markets Act, which could force sideloading of apps on the iPhone in Europe. The Cupertino iPhone maker has shared an in-depth document highlighting what it says are the security and privacy risks associated with installing apps from outside of the App Store, via websites and third-party app stores.
Apple’s “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps” document states that “mobile malware and the resulting security and privacy threats are increasingly common and predominantly present on platforms that allow sideloading.”
In the document, Apple mentions Nokia’s 2019 and 2020 Threat Intelligence Reports that found Android devices to have an “estimated 15 to 47 times more infections from malicious software” than iPhones.
Android smartphones are the most common mobile malware targets and have recently had between 15 and 47 times more infections from malicious software than iPhone. A study found that 98 percent of mobile malware targets Android devices. This is closely linked to sideloading: In 2018, for example, Android devices that installed apps outside Google Play, the official Android app store, were eight times more likely to be affected by potentially harmful applications than those that did not.
Apple says malware on the iOS platform is a rare occurrence, and that most of such attacks on the platform are “narrowly targeted attacks, often carried out by nation-states.” Apple says “experts generally agree that iOS is safer compared to Android, in part because Apple does not support sideloading.”
Apple’s document also provides examples of the common malware affecting the Android platform, using them as an additional argument against sideloading.
Apple said that being forced to allow sideloading its users would face more malicious apps and that they will have less control over apps after downloading them onto their devices. The Cupertino firm says proposed sideloading legislation would also remove protections that prevent third-party access to proprietary hardware elements and non-public operating system functions, which would result in security and privacy risks for users.
Apple said criminals may trick users into sideloading apps by mimicking the appearance of the App Store or by advertising free or exclusive features.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously claimed that sideloading apps “would destroy the security of the iPhone” and “a lot of the privacy initiatives that we’ve built into the App Store.”