Sideloading: Does It Expose You To Scams?

Last year, Apple got a lot of heat from the European Union for not enabling sideloading, i.e., to let its users install apps that aren’t available on the Apple App Store or a third party store. However, Apple pushed back against the mounting pressure, arguing that doing so would leave mobile users exposed to scams and cyber threats. It made a case against sideloading by highlighting the privacy issues that come with it and how it can jeopardize the security of iPhone users. Through this blog, Phonato Studios explores this issue in detail:

Is Sideloading Really That Bad?

Whether you own an Android device or an Apple iOS one, your mobile comes with an app store that’s preinstalled. These stores give you access to every app you could possibly want. They are known for conducting rigorous security checks and scans before making an app live. In fact, all mobile applications that seek to make their presence felt on these app stores must fulfill a few guidelines to make the cut. This is what differentiates these stores from third parties. 


With sideloading, users can procure application packages (in APK formats) from another device via USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi, or simply by inserting a memory card that contains the said file. This can be facilitated only if the user has permitted downloads from unfamiliar sources by visiting the device’s security settings. 


Thus, it wouldn’t be tough for a user to install the beta version of an application by getting in touch with the developer on Discord. By doing this, they would be able to get around the security restrictions and geographical limitations set by the giant stores. 


Here, the advantages of sideloading are apparent. It makes way for more competition in the arena and enables independent app releases. App stores charge commissions up to 30% for in-app purchases made by users. However, with sideloading, the entire cash goes to the app development business in question.

The Problem Of Fraud & Cyber Scams With Sideloading

When you install apps that have not gone through the requisite review processes, there’s no telling what they may contain. The app may be infected with credential-stealing trojans, ransomware, and even other forms of malware, which may snoop into your personal information and credit card details. If your mobile is hooked on to a public network, others may be at risk as well. In addition to this, even if the app is from a secure source, users may still be exposed to bugs and other vulnerabilities that may not have been noticed when the app was in development. 


Exposure to hacking attempts made through sideloading does not only harm individuals, but also organizations. Thankfully, Android does have a partitioning feature that comes with work profiles. In such a scenario, sideloaded apps for work and personal purposes remain separated from each other. This helps lower the risk of exposure to a certain extent. 

Signing Off

As you can see, sideloading has its pros and cons. However, one should consider the fact that downloading files from unverified sources can come with its own set of security risks, as opposed to doing the same through an app store.