Thursday, May 20, 2021, 15:51 Software

Craig Federighi: macOS Security Inferior To iOS – Unacceptable Amount Of Malware

Apple has to prove to the courts that its strict regulation of the App Store serves to protect users and the platform from harmful software. It's not legal under any circumstance for Apple to use its regulation of the App Store in an attempt to manipulate the market – say for example by obstructing competitors or maximizing sales in the form of store fees. In defence of Apple's strict regulation of the App Store, Apple's Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, stressed the fact that macOS isn't as well-protected against malware as iOS/iPadOS. Partially due to iOS/iPadOS as an operating system being more restrictive when it comes to downloadable applications, with applications only being downloadable from the App Store – meaning that only Apple-approved applications can be run on an uncracked iOS/iPadOS device.

2008: Protecting The App Store From "Contamination"
Since its debut in 2008, the goal of the App Store has been to maintain the platform's integrity and prevent the spread of malware. At the time of the platform's launch, it was difficult to foresee the platform's rise to a billion-dollar business even with its 30% fee. Now Apple is asked to prove that the regulations leftover from the early days of the App Store are still applicable and that they are being used in the sense of the original intention.

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Far Too Much Mac Malware In Apple's Eyes
According to Federighi, there's a higher than acceptable amount of potentially macOS compromising malware lurking. Since iOS has a far greater number of users than macOS, there would be even more malware to contend with if users were able to install applications from any source. It would simply be impossible to establish a "Review Policy" to protect users and prevent malware. Although Federighi still sees work to be done on the amount of malware threatening macOS, he claims that iOS would be much worse if not for the App Store downloading restriction.

Android: Technically Safe But Contaminated With Malware
As further proof of the App Stores utility, Federighi points to Android. Although there's no glaring difference between Android and iOS when it comes to system security, Android users are still 30x more likely to be infected with malware. With iOS and the App Store, Apple managed to achieve major advantages in terms of platform security and software integrity. This is a well-known fact in the security community. Federighi also cites a Nokia study concerning the spread of malware on Android.

Mac Vs. iOS Software
Contrary to what some believe and what others have feared and over ten years after the introduction of the App Store, Apple still allows for the "free" software market. For example, macOS developers don't have to use the App Store, although they still have to comply with requirements. In accordance with macOS's settings, programs that haven't been signed or notarized by the developer won't start. The latter is an automatic check and differs from the App Store's manual review process.

In view of these recent tones from Apple, it seems as if the company may have intentions to tighten its grip of control of macOS software. It's still unlikely that the company will change the macOS platform to be as restrictive as iOS when it comes to downloading applications, but rules with respects to sandboxing and other procedures could still be enforced via notarization.

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