Apple has sent a warning to legislators that anti-trust bills gaining traction in the Senate would open up millions of iPhones and Apple devices to malware attacks if passed.
The bipartisan bill called the American Innovation and Choice Online Act seeks to limit tech companies from favoring their own products over alternatives. Another bill, The Open App Markets Act, would have similar constraints imposed on the likes of Apple and Google and how they control the distribution of apps.
Unleashing hackers onto every phone
For Apple, the security concern centers around portions of both bills that would force Apple to allow others to circumvent the safe shelter of the App store ecosystem where apps from outside of the App store can be downloaded from anywhere called ‘sideloading’.
Currently the App store approval process for developers centers around protecting the safety, security and privacy of Apple’s customers using iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices. Forcing Apple to allow ‘sideloading’ would according to Apple’s senior director of government affairs, Tim Powderly, increase the security risk of breaches to iPhone users, “The bills put consumers in harm’s way because of the real risk of privacy and security breaches.”
He’s right about that security concern. Absent control of security and privacy standards, it would be a giant mess of malware attacks and security breaches that would turn your phone into a troublemaking hot potato.
Why you should know what ‘Sideloading’ means
The term “sideloading” means anyone is able to introduce apps onto an iPhone without the same scrutiny that app developers face before their app gains approval from Apple to be offered to the public in the App Store. That means that no one would be looking out for your protection if apps were available via sideloading from any source including hackers. That’s not the only concern for lawmakers that is leading to real regulatory discussions for the first time in years. Another part is fairness.
Ending the monopoly on our digital lives
Big tech companies like Apple and Google control virtually all mobile app distribution while marketing their own competitive apps and products with other 3rd party products in their respective app stores. Apple takes a 15% to 30% cut on digital purchases made on apps and that’s what has drawn scrutiny leading in part to lawmakers now seriously considering regulation.
A provision in one of the bills will prevent both Apple and Google from forcing app developers to use only the platform’s in-app payment system. Opening up the payment systems would likely bring more innovation and lower costs in favor of consumers. On the other hand, cramming through legislation that ignores inherent and real risks to security, safety and privacy could be disastrous for people.
The government has not shown that it can be successful wrangling big tech. Apple could argue that Steve Jobs created apps and for the most part Apple has proven that it is skilled at keeping threats off their App Store and devices. They built and own the app toll-booth when there was nothing. Now, it would seem nearly impossible to compete with either Apple or Google with their dominant position in the app marketplace. That squeeze is what has brought about growing ire for regulation globally.
Having covered tech for 20 years, the best outcome here in the U.S. is legislation that frees consumers from limited choices, allows for open and free commerce, restores a path for innovators of startups and at the same time gives as much weight to the importance of real security risks behind every decision.
Can’t we liberate commerce and consumer choice while keeping rules in place that protect security? Do you agree that we need to find the right balance? Comment below.
You have a right to voice your opinion
Keep in mind that tech companies are now the biggest spenders of lobbyists who are in the ears of our representatives in Washington louder than ever protesting any legislation that limits their big tech clients. As these bills get closer to advancing to a potential vote after they are marked up by the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday, let your representative know how you feel.
How to protect against malware attacks now
Regardless of how exposed your phone is now or may become under greater threats in the future, you can always take control with the best 3rd party security software and apps to protect against threats here.
Bitdefender Total Security
MacOS, Windows, iOS and Android device protection
Annual or monthly subscription currently $40 at the time of publishing for first year with software for up to 5 devices (slightly more for 10 devices) that include MacOS, iOS, Windows and Android. This seems to be the best solution for a family like mine with multiple devices from the list of their endless sometimes confusing Bitdefender offerings that shouldn’t steer you away.
Bitdefender is strong while being user friendly and easy to use. It’s great at protecting many evils beginning with anti-virus security that recognizes malware, ransomware, viruses and other threats like spam. What I really like is the real-time data protection to battle malware automatically with their antivirus solution that does not slowdown anything you are doing. AI improvements can identify suspicious threats on your network and block an attack fast.
Bitdefender’s Rescue Mode can clean-up threats to keep your devices safe. It has a lot of bells and whistles that I like especially the file shredder that takes deleting to a whole new level of destruction of sensitive personal info you want to erase for good. Bitdefender is popular with its users and available at multiple online stores but I find the best pricing is here directly from Bitdefender by cutting out the middleman.