In Europe, the walled garden of Apple’s App Store is about to get a crack.  This is driven by a new piece of legislation from the European Union, the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Due to this new legislation, Apple is preparing to allow sideloading of apps and alternative app stores in the region. This means that users will be able to put apps and software on their devices from unofficial sources. This marks a monumental shift in the functionality and design of its iOS ecosystem as Apple has always ensured strict control over its ecosystem. Whilst this drastic change may seem entirely positive, it raises some important questions about cybersecurity implications and potential effects for UK users.

Two Worlds, Two App Stores:

The key takeaway is that this sideloading freedom won’t extend beyond the EU’s borders. Therefore, users in the rest of the world, including the UK, will remain with just the current App Store. This creates a difference in product depending on the region of purchase, as countries in the EU will have both the current app store and the ability to sideload additional stores.

While UK users won’t directly benefit from this new feature, the ripple of the effect may still be felt. It may cause a direct rise in innovation, as the development of alternative app stores creates a rise in competition, leading to more diverse application offerings in the UK and worldwide.
It may also lead to broader changes to the app store policies globally as Apple continue to comply with the DMA, potentially impacting developers and users globally.

Cybersecurity concerns

The loosing of control raises concerns about security risks. The obvious method of this is the increased threat landscape, by opening another way into the iOS operating system, there is a whole new avenue for Cyber Criminals to target exploits.
Apple’s App Store has always acted as a barrier for malware and malicious apps due to the rigorous review process enforced by Apple.

This change could increase the risk of malware infections, data breaches and privacy violations for iOS users who choose to sideload apps.

The Road Ahead

The full picture of how this sideloading experiment will play out in the EU remains to be seen. The feature is due to roll out in iOS 17.4, the next major update Apple is set to release.

To mitigate Cybersecurity risks user education and robust security features are going to become even more critical.

Ultimately, the story of Apple’s sideloading saga is still unfolding. It is a complex issue, with implications for users, developers, cybercriminals and the tech industry as a whole. As the plot thickens it is important to keep yourself and your team vigilant, ensuring a safe and enriching app experience regardless of Physical location. Get in touch today to see how our Cyber Wise program ensures your team have the tools to identify and respond to an attempted or successful Cyber Attack.


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