Apple’s Move to Third-Party App Stores: How Developers Can Prepare

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As Bloomberg first reported late last year, Apple is currently working to open its iOS to third-party app stores sometime in 2024, if not sooner. The move is one Apple is making reluctantly as it responds to new regulations in the European Union designed to increase competition, such as the Digital Markets Act.

Apple has long resisted calls to allow third-party stores and app sideloading because of potential security and privacy risks for its customers. Indeed, one condition Apple will likely insist on with this initiative is ensuring that all apps from third-party stores undergo some form of security verification.

An Opportunity and a Challenge

Extending iOS to third-party app stores is great news for app makers eager for more options in getting their mobile products on more devices. That said, Apple’s security concerns are quite valid. Those concerns are shared by Google. In contrast to Apple, Google Play already allows third-party app stores on its platform. But, like Apple, Google is careful to note that it isn’t responsible for the security of apps acquired outside of Google Play.

A key takeaway from this third-party app store news is that security will remain a top priority for app makers no matter what app stores are involved. Frankly, that is as it should be. If your goal is to build your customer base, the ultimate responsibility for the security of your apps resides with you.

But as every app maker knows, achieving adequate application security in today’s mobile threat environment is easier said than done. Few app developers have the tools, expertise, and time to ensure their products are infused with the safety and security consumers and enterprise customers require.

Why Not Trust Your App Security to the App Stores?

Mobile app security is a bar that is only becoming higher. Some app makers, lacking sufficient security resources, rely on app-store platforms like Apple and Google Play to examine apps for vulnerabilities or malicious viruses. Both platforms scan thousands of apps each day. One drawback of these automated scans is that they can only assess the state of an app at a single point in time. As a result, key privacy and security issues can fall through the cracks. It should come as no surprise then to learn that among popular shopping apps, 100% of the ones available on iOS and 90% of those available on Android failed to receive a passing privacy grade, according to a recent analysis. The same study revealed that 83% of the iOS apps and 97% of the Android apps received a failing grade for security.

Clearly, status quo app security and privacy are not enough—especially when your reputation and your business success depend on keeping mobile customers safe in all circumstances.

How Zimperium Can Help

Bolstering the security of your apps means going beyond generalized security assessments. Zimperium offers a range of turn-key solutions that empower mobile app developers to seize revenue opportunities from increased app-store access while delivering products built to meet and exceed the most rigorous security and privacy requirements. Here are two solutions that can get you on the path to delivering mobile apps that are inherently secure.

Start by Easily Building Security into Your Apps During Development.

As we have seen, relying on app-store tools to catch security problems is incomplete. So are off-the-shelf scanning solutions. Pen testing, while helpful, is a slow and costly process and often too rigid for today’s rapid development cycles. Zimperium zScan provides a vital complement to these alternatives. It rapidly identifies privacy, security, and compliance risks during development and pre-release testing phases and pinpoints critical gaps these other measures miss. The solution also prioritizes findings to take the guesswork out of which issues to address first. In addition, it provides common consoles, frictionless DevSecOps integrations through plugins, APIs and GitHub actions, and hardware-free implementations that make it faster and easier to secure your apps before you make them available on app stores.

Embed Security Across the Application Lifecycle

Zimperium Mobile Application Protection Suite (MAPS™) is the industry’s only unified platform that combines centralized visibility with holistic and continuous defense-in-depth protection. Along with the comprehensive assessment features of zScan, MAPS hardens app security with:

  • zKeyBox: White-box cryptography that prevents cryptographic keys from being discovered, extracted, or manipulated
  • zShield: Anti-reverse engineering protection that uses advanced obfuscation to protect source code, intellectual property, and application data
  • zDefend: Advanced security features that enable mobile apps to proactively protect themselves even without a network connection


News of Apple’s anticipated acceptance of third-party app stores is a prime opportunity for mobile app makers to expand sales to new customers and new markets. But those sales will ultimately hinge on whether your mobile products are app-store secure. Zimperium can help you achieve the high levels of protection and data privacy today’s mobile apps demand while freeing you to focus on what you do best—creating features your customers crave and delivering great user experiences. To learn more, contact us today.

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Mobile App Security Expert. View the author's experience and accomplishments on LinkedIn.

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