Apple wants users to trust iOS, but it doesn’t trust iOS users


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Apple’s software engineering head Craig Federighi had a tricky task in the Epic v. Apple trial: explaining why the Mac’s security wasn’t good enough for the iPhone.

a man wearing a suit and tie

Mac computers have an official Apple App Store, but they also allow downloading software from the internet or a third-party store. Apple has never opened up iOS this way, but it’s long touted the privacy and security of both platforms. Then Epic Games sued Apple to force its hand, saying that if an open model is good enough for macOS, Apple’s claims about iOS ring hollow. On the stand yesterday, Federighi tried to resolve this problem by portraying iPhones and Macs as dramatically different devices — and in the process, threw macOS under the bus.


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“iPhones are very attractive targets”

Federighi outlined three main differences between iOS and macOS. The first is scale. Far more people use iPhones than Macs, and the more users a platform gets, the more enticing that audience becomes to malware developers. Federighi argued iOS users are also much more casual about downloading software, giving attackers better odds of luring them into a download. “iOS users are just accustomed to getting apps all the time,” he said, citing Apple’s old catchphrase: “There’s an app for that.”

The second difference is data sensitivity. “iPhones are very attractive targets. They are very personal devices that are with you all the time. They have some of your most personal information — of course your contacts, your photos, but also other things,” he said. Mobile devices put a camera, microphone, and GPS tracker in your pocket. “All of these things make access or control of these devices potentially incredibly valuable to an attacker.”

That may undersell private interactions with Macs; Epic’s counsel Yonatan Even noted that many telemedicine calls and other virtual interactions happen on desktop. Still, it’s fair to say phones have become many people’s all-purpose digital lockboxes.

The third difference is more conceptual. Federighi basically says iOS users need to be more protected because the Mac is a specialist tool for people who know how to navigate the…