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Sideloading is a malware danger, Apple tells U.S. lawmakers

Apple has written to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to dispute claims made by an expect about sideloading, insisting its arguments about the technique being a malware vector are justified.

In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance forward the Open Markets Act in February, legislation that could force Apple to allow the sideloading of apps. In a continued effort to fight the measure, Apple has written to lawmakers about malware dangers.

The letter, sent on Thursday and seen by Reuters, talks about comments from computer security expert Bruce Schneider, where he says Apple's concerns about sideloading are "unfounded."

In response, Apple argued that sideloading is beneficial to malware producers, as it relies on users being tricked to download it rather than requiring hackers to more directly break device security. The App Store review process "creates a high barrier against the most common scams used to distribute malware," writes Apple.

Though Apple does accept Schneider's comments that state-sponsored hackers have the potential to break device security directly, such attacks are a "rare threat" to consumers. "There is ample evidence showing third-party app stores are a key malware vector on platforms which support such stores," urges the iPhone maker.

Apple's letter was sent to Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, as well as its top Republican, Chuck Grassley. It was also sent to antitrust subcommittee chair Amy Klobuchar and its top Republican, Mike Lee.

In a previous letter to top Senate lawmakers on February 3, Apple said the Open Markets Act would harm user security and privacy. Sideloading "would enable bad actors to evade Apple's privacy and security protections by distributing apps without critical privacy and security checks."

The Open Markets Act is an antitrust bill that applies restrictions to Apple, Google, and other platform holders. It would ban policies preventing sideloading, as well as essentially forcing the acceptance of third-party payment systems, among other measures.