Apple software guru rages against app side-loading as a criminal's 'best friend'

The App Store on a phone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock / BigTunaOnline)

Apple’s head of software engineering Craig Federighi has severely criticized the practice of side-loading apps, saying that if forced on the iOS apps ecosystem, it will rob Apple of its best defense against malware

Speaking at the recent Web Summit 2021 conference, Federighi had his guns trained on European Commission’s proposed Digital Markets Act, which, if passed, would require Apple to let users install apps outside of the iOS App Store

“Sideloading is a cyber criminal’s best friend and requiring that on iPhone would be a gold rush for the malware industry,” Federighi said during the presentation.

One-sided argument

Apple CEO Tim Cook has already voiced his displeasure against the practice of sideloading, back in June, saying it will “destroy the security of the iPhone,” according to TechCrunch

“If Apple were forced to support sideloading, more harmful apps would reach users because it would be easier for cybercriminals to target them – even if sideloading were limited to third-party app stores only," Apple claimed in a report last month, going on to present a “threat analysis of sideloading.”

The Verge reports that Federighi also took objection to the proposal that calls for letting users decide for themselves whether to take the risk of sideloading apps. 

He argued that the problem is that “criminals are clever, and they’re really good at hiding in plain sight,” and that even informed users might trip over misleading websites, or perhaps even fail to spot fake app stores installed on their phones. 

However, the Apple App Store isn't as scam-free as Apple would have you believe, with 18 of the top 1,000 highest grossing App Store apps guilty of scamming users to the tune of about $50 million. 

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.