Craig Federighi Bashes iPhone Sideloading at Web Summit, Says It Is a ‘Cybercriminal’s Best Friend’

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 3 Nov 2021

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During his keynote address at the Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, Apple’s senior vice president Craig Federighi vehemently criticized legislation that could force the company to allow sideloading of apps on iPhones.

Federighi was referring to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) legislation announced in December 2020 in the EU. It could trigger major changes for Apple’s App Store. Among these, the DMA’s enforcement would compel Apple to allow sideloading of apps. Federighi compared buying an iPhone to purchasing a “great home with a really great security system,” but then a new law gets passed that forces you to weaken the security system. “The safe house that you chose now has a fatal flaw in its security system, and burglars are really good at exploiting it,” he added.

Federighi called sideloading “a cybercriminal’s best friend” and said that the legislation comes at a time when there have “never been more cybercriminals” hungry for access to information on your iPhone. Driving his point home, he said the DMA legislation would open a “Pandora’s box of unreviewed, malware-ridden software and deny everyone the option of iPhone’s secure approach.”

“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 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.”

Naturally, the popular counterargument suggests that Apple should simply let people “choose” to sideload apps, albeit with warnings that they could be coerced or tricked. Federighi addressed this as well.

“Clearly, I’m no fan of sideloading, but I want to address an argument I hear a lot: “Let people choose whether or not to sideload. Let them judge the risks, and they can decide themselves.” And it’s easy to see the attraction of this argument, but history shows us that it doesn’t play out the way we’d hope because even if you have no intention of sideloading, people are routinely coerced or tricked into doing it. And that’s true across the board, even on platforms like Android that sideloading is somewhat difficult to do.”

Here’s Federighi’s complete address (starts at 7:30:00) if you’re interested in watching it.