April 20, 2024

iOS 17.4: A revolutionary new move will transform your iPhone forever

Apple’s iOS 17.4 update will see the iPhone maker open its App Store and iOS ecosystem to third parties for the first time. In a revolutionary move, the iPhone maker will comply with the EU Digital Markets Act by allowing side-loading of apps starting in March, when iOS 17.4 is released, Apple said in an announcement.

The change coming to iOS 17.4 will be welcomed by iPhone users in the EU who would like the same flexibility that Google’s Android users enjoy. But Apple has warned that the download and the associated changes that must be made to iOS and its ecosystem, as a result, expose iPhone users to significant security risks.

Many experts agree. The beauty of iOS from a security and privacy perspective is the closed ecosystem approach, which contrasts with Android’s open market. Because Apple owns the iOS hardware and software, the iPhone maker has much better control over security. Starting with iOS 17.4, this will change for EU users, but Apple says it’s doing everything it can to keep it as safe as possible.

What is changing in iOS 17.4?

The Digital Markets Law aims to boost competition by preventing technology giants like Apple from acting as “gatekeepers” that dominate the market. Starting with iOS 17.4, Apple is adding new options for distributing iOS apps from alternative app marketplaces, “including new APIs and tools that allow developers to offer their iOS apps for download from alternative app marketplaces.”

It will also add a new framework and API to create alternative app marketplaces, “allowing marketplace developers to install apps and manage updates on behalf of other developers from their dedicated marketplace app.”

Additionally, developers will be able to use browser engines other than WebKit for browser applications and applications with in-app browsing experiences.

Apple also shares DMA-friendly changes that affect contactless payments. This includes new APIs that allow developers to use NFC technology in their banking and wallet applications across the European Economic Area, Apple said. In the EU, Apple is also introducing new controls that “allow users to select a third-party contactless payment app (or alternative app marketplace) as the default option.”

Where will sideloading be available?

Apple said the changes coming to iOS 17.4 will be available in the EU, but what exactly does that mean, given that the UK is no longer a member? The UK will reportedly be exempt from the changes, at least for now.

In its press release, Apple described how the new capabilities “will be available to users in all 27 EU countries starting in March 2024.”

Those 27 countries are: The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg , Malt. , Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

But the UK has its own version of the DMA, the UK Digital Markets Bill, which is in the process of being passed right now and could eventually force Apple to make the decision.

How will downloading work on iOS 17.4?

As you may have deduced, Apple is not particularly happy with the changes. And the download will not be openly available, 9to5Mac reports. Instead, Apple maintains a “walled garden” element by allowing only certain app stores it calls “App Marketplaces” to distribute apps. These must follow Apple’s rules and stipulations.

Meanwhile, Apple will verify that your device is eligible for download changes through a system called “country,” which combines information including your Apple ID billing address, the country of location, the region set in the iOS settings and the type of device you are using.

As 9to5Mac notes, the system also checks to see if the device comes from China to restrict downloading, although it’s unclear why. You’ll be able to see your device’s region through a new section in the “About this iPhone” menu, with additional details about the system to be available in a support article not yet published on Apple’s site.

Other changes for EU users in iOS 17.4

Other requirements under the DMA include changes to Apple’s Safari browser. While iOS users already have the ability to set a third-party web browser as the default, Apple needs to go further to comply with EU regulations.

Reflecting the DMA’s requirements to ensure users know there is a choice, Apple said it is also introducing a new choice screen, which will appear when users open Safari for the first time in iOS 17.4 or later. “That screen will ask EU users to choose a default browser from a list of options,” Apple said.

What are the security risks?

Apple says the more open ecosystem that comes with DMA means it has less ability to address other risks, “including apps that contain scams, fraud and abuse, or that expose users to unlawful, objectionable or harmful content.”

Apple says its anti-tracking feature, App Tracking Transparency, will continue to work with apps distributed outside of the App Store. “However, DMA requirements mean that App Store features, including Family Purchase Sharing and Ask to Buy, will not be supported for apps downloaded from outside the App Store.”

The “one golden security measure” that keeps iPhones safe is the fact that apps are downloaded from Apple’s App Store ecosystem, says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity advisor at ESET. “Opening this up to uncontrolled third parties would potentially allow threat actors to use Trojan horses and in-app malware to attack devices,” he warns.

Sean Wright, head of app security at Featurespace, is more conflicted about Apple’s iOS 17.4 changes. “Initially, the closed ecosystem seems more secure and less prone to malicious applications, but this is not always the case.”

Additionally, Wright admits that there hasn’t been “a major issue” so far with the ability to install apps from other locations on Android.

What is Apple doing to improve security?

Apple said in its announcement that it is introducing new security measures to increase security. These include notarization for iOS apps, a release for marketplace developers, and disclosures about alternative payments. It says this will “reduce risks and provide the best and safest possible experience for EU users.”

However, even with these safeguards in place, “many risks remain,” Apple said.

To do

It’s not ideal for security-conscious EU iPhone users, many of whom use Apple devices due to their secure design credentials.

Starting with iOS 17.4, people need to be more aware of where the apps they download come from, Moore says. “Experienced Android users have been used to this from the beginning, but now Apple users will need to do more diligence to protect their devices and data.”

When making purchases through third-party marketplaces, users should be aware that they are providing their payment information to third parties, says Boris Larin, principal security researcher for Kaspersky’s GReAT. “Apple has stated that it will not be in a position to issue refunds in such cases.”

When iOS 17.4 is released, Wright believes most people will stick to the official app stores. “This would definitely be my recommendation to users,” he says.

I agree. While the iOS 17.4 changes are a big change for EU iPhone users, it is still possible to keep your iPhone secure. Check all apps before downloading, including reviews, and if you’re concerned, limit your downloads to Apple’s official App Store only.

Update 01/29 at 05:18 EST. This article was first published on 01/26 at 06:44 EST. Updated to include information on exactly which countries will be affected by the iOS 17.4 change and what this means for UK users.

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