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Apple Insists Risks From ‘Sideloading’ Apps Are Serious

Sideloading, the practice of downloading apps without using an app store, is among the reforms lawmakers hope will open up the market


Apple store
Apple shares were down 2.1% after executives laid out their glum outlook on a conference call. The news outweighed strong results, including record profit and sales, for Apple's fiscal second quarter, which ended in March. Photo: Reuters

 

Smartphone maker Apple has written to US legislators to dispute assertions that its concerns about the dangers of “sideloading” apps into phones were overblown.

Sideloading, the practice of downloading apps without using an app store, is among the reforms that lawmakers hope will open up the market for apps.

Congress is currently considering a bill aimed at reining in app stores run by Apple and Alphabet’s Google, which would require companies to allow sideloading.

Apple has argued that such a practice would be a security risk as it keeps tight control of the apps in the store in order to keep users safe.

In a letter sent to key members of the US Senate judiciary committee, Apple said it was aware that a critic, computer security expert Bruce Schneier, had called its concerns about sideloading “unfounded”.

Apple went on to argue that most malware does not rely on technical tricks to gain access to devices but instead tricks the human user to download it.

 

‘High Barrier’

It argued that Apple’s review of apps that are put into the App Store “creates a high barrier against the most common scams used to distribute malware”.

Apple acknowledged that Schneier was correct that state-sponsored attackers could get through smartphones’ security controls but argued that these sorts of attacks are a “rare threat”.

“There is ample evidence showing third-party app stores are a key malware vector on platforms which support such stores,” Apple said in the letter.

It was sent to committee chair Dick Durbin, the top Republican, Chuck Grassley as well as Amy Klobuchar, chair of the antitrust subcommittee, along with the top Republican, Mike Lee. The committee voted in early February to approve the bill.

The measure would also bar companies from requiring app providers to use their payment system and would prohibit them from punishing apps that offer different prices or conditions through another app store or payment system.

The biggest technology companies, including Meta Platforms’ Facebook and Amazon, have been under pressure in Congress over allegations they abused their outsized market power.

A long list of bills is aimed at reining them in, but none have yet become law.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by George Russell

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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