Apple Shoots Android Malware in Fierce Resistance to iOS Sideloading

Apple Shoots Android Malware in Fierce Resistance to iOS Sideloading

Apple continues to fight looming antitrust legislation in the United States that could bring major changes to the App Store. A letter sent by Apple to the Senate Judiciary Committee and received by 9to5Mac specifically contradicts claims that Apple’s anti-sideloading stance is “unfounded, disingenuous, and dishonest.”

This letter from Apple to the Senate Judiciary Committee is dated March 3 and signed by Timothy Powderly, the company’s senior director of government affairs. The letter was sent in response to allegations by cryptographer Bruce Schneier, who told lawmakers that Apple’s security concerns surrounding sideloading were “unfounded.”

In his own letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent out in January, Schneier wrote:

I would like to address some of the unfounded security concerns that have been raised in connection with these bills. It is simply not true that this legislation endangers users’ privacy and security. In fact, it’s fairer to say that this legislation jeopardizes these companies’ extractive business models. Their claims of privacy and security risks are both false and disingenuous, and are motivated by their own self-interest rather than the public interest.

Reuters was the first to report Apple’s response to Schneier, and 9to5Mac has now received a full copy of the document. Apple states that Schneier’s allegations are “particularly disappointing” and prove that “even talented technical practitioners” can be confused by issues surrounding sideloading:

Given our general esteem for Mr. Schneier, these allegations are particularly disappointing. In our experience, the work of providing leading-edge security and privacy for a modern computing platform at the scale of billions of devices is among the most enormously complex and challenging technical and techno-political endeavors, and much of that work remains easily misunderstood. Mr. Schneier’s letter underscores that even talented technical practitioners, if they have not worked on key issues in this area, the issues can become confusing.

Throughout the letter, Apple points to a number of different examples of third-party app stores containing malware-infected apps and apps that harvest user data. One of the examples provided by Apple revolves around the Android ecosystem.

In the Android ecosystem, which contains 50 times more malware than iOS 5, Nokia noted that “the fact that Android applications can be downloaded from almost anywhere is still a major problem, with users downloading apps for free from app Third-party stores where many of the applications work but are trojanized.

The letter continues:

In Nokia’s 2021 Threat Intelligence Report, Android devices accounted for 50.31% of all infected devices, followed by Windows devices at 23.1% and macOS devices at 9.2%. iOS devices made up such a small percentage that they weren’t even singled out, instead being categorized under “Other”. We consider this a triumph in protecting our users, and it would never have been possible without the industry-leading last line of defense of our device security controls working in tandem with the frontline security and privacy safeguards we provide to our users through the App Store and App Review .

As expected, Apple also notes a number of safeguards the App Store offers, including the verification process, app tracking transparency, and privacy nutrition labels. None of this would be possible with third-party app stores, Apple says.

The full letter is embedded below.

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