Apple exec warns of side-loading danger in EU’s proposed DMA legislation
In a keynote speech at Web Summit in Portugal, Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi criticised the European Union’s Digital Markets Act legislation, saying it could lead to major changes for the App Store and pre-installed first-party applications on the iPhone
The legislation, which was introduced by the EU in December 2020, aims to ensure that major platforms, such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, behave in a fair way online. This includes allowing third parties to inter-operate with services owned by the platforms (described as gatekeepers), both within the platform and outside of it.
Unlike Android, iOS is a locked-in system, meaning Apple acts as the gatekeeper for every services available on the iPhone. This, according to Federighi, has helped Apple to keep out more malware than its rivals.
He said: “One security firm found that more than 5 million attacks per month on its clients using Android. But there’s never been this kind of widespread consumer malware attack on iOS. Never.
“So what’s the difference? Well, the single biggest reason is that other platforms allow side loading and on iPhone to sideload would mean downloading software directly from the open internet, or from third party stores, bypassing the protections of the App Store.”
He explained that Apple includes several layers of protection when reviewing new software or applications, before they are made available in iOS. This includes human app reviews and a single point of distribution.
That single point of distribution is not only important to security, but it is also a big source of profit for the Californian company. According to a CNBC analysis, Apple’s App Store had gross sales of around $64 billion last year, and Apple takes a cut of everything sold on the App Store, as well as any payments made through it.
This has led to criticism and even lawsuits, with games maker Epic Games suing the manufacturer last year over a decision to ban a payments store for its hugely popular Fortnite games. In a ruling in September, a US judge found in favour of Apple for nine of the 10 counts, though Epic has appealed.
Federighi, during his talk, focussed primarily on the security issue, likening buying an iPhone to buying a “great home with a really great security system,” but then a new law gets passed that forces you to weaken the security of your home.
He said the DMA’s ambition – to promote competition – was “admirable” but warned if consumers are given choice whether to sideload or not, they can be tricked, leaving them vulnerable to malware attacks.
He added: “As an engineer who wants iPhone to stay as secure as possible for our users, there is one part I worry about and that’s the provision that would require iPhone to allow sideloading. In the name of giving users more choice, that one provision would take away consumers’ choice of a more secure platform.
“All of this comes at a time where people are keeping more personal and sensitive information than ever on their iPhones. And I can tell you there have never been cybercriminals more determined to get your hands on it.”
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