Epic Games expert says iOS could be like macOS without security drawbacks

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An Epic Games expert witness laid the groundwork for an argument that Apple could make iOS more like macOS in terms of app distribution and third-party access without suffering in security.

During his testimony on Friday, Harvard University Computer Science Professor James Mickens laid out the differences between iOS and macOS to Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. Some of the key areas of distinction include security, app distribution, and third-party app access.

For example, Mickens says that Apple's App Review process provides negligible security benefits over iOS's built-in defenses. That's because of mechanisms like sandboxing, which prevents app from interacting with other parts of the system.

At another point, when asked by Judge Gonzalez Rogers whether iOS is more secure than macOS, Mickens said that he believed it's not "meaningfully more secure."

Additionally, Mickens said that opening iOS to third-party app stores would not have a "meaningful difference on the security experience." If Apple opened up iOS, it wouldn't prevent users from only obtaining apps from the App Store, he added.

In response to the third-party access comment, Judge Gonzalez Rogers said that Mickens had "made a good point," but noted that she's concerned about the numbers.

At other points during his testimony, Mickens said it would be trivial to port security features like malware scanning and notarization to iOS.

Mickens' testimony defends a crux of Epic Games' argument against the iOS App Store. Epic notes Apple says both iOS and macOS are safe and secure, though Apple does not enforce the same restrictions on Mac. This seeming disconnect could undermine Apple's claims that security and privacy are at the heart of iOS App Store rules.

The Harvard University professor is slated to give additional testimony on Monday.

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