Apple’s top software engineer has criticised the security of his own Mac operating system, in a bid to explain why the company shouldn’t be forced by a judge to loosen its hold over iPhone and iPad app distribution.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, testified on Thursday morning at a US federal court trial brought by Fortnite-maker Epic Games. He said that his experience with imported malware on the macOS system shows how security would be eroded if the company allowed iPhone and iPad users to install software from the web or other stores, as Epic is demanding.
“Today we have a level of malware on the Mac that we don’t find acceptable,” primarily because the system allows users to install software that isn’t vetted by Apple, Federighi said. That makes it less secure than iOS and iPadOS, the operating systems that power the iPhone and iPad, he said.
Allowing apps from other stores or places on the iPhone would create a “very, very bad situation for our customers,” including “a huge decrease in their safety,” Federighi said. He also said iPhones and iPads have security protections, including the App Store review process, to keep the products free from malware.
Later in his testimony, Federighi said that despite its malware problems, the Mac is the safest choice among personal computers and is more secure than those running Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
Federighi said that the rival Android operating system, which allows third-party stores, faces similar security challenges. “It’s well understood in the security community that Android has a malware problem.” Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, has succeeded in blocking malware, he said.
Responding to a hypothetical situation in which third-party app download stores would be allowed, Federighi said that Apple’s “security stack” is built end-to-end in a way that it would be challenging to let third parties in to manage user security and privacy. He would have “grave concerns” if Apple had to hand off control over security to third parties, he said.
Earlier in the trial, Epic tried to make the point that if installing software from third-party stores on the Mac is condoned by Apple, it should be allowed on the iPhone and iPad as well. Epic’s lawyer tried to poke holes in Apple’s retort, asking Federighi if Apple tells users they should buy iPads instead of Macs if they are seeking security.