In the wake of recent news, you may be wondering how to remove sideloaded apps from iOS. Luckily, the process isn’t too difficult.
First, let’s review a bit of context. Sideloading, basically, is a method of installing an app onto a device without using the platform’s usual app distribution method. In the case of iOS, it’s installing an app without the App Store.
Sideloading is fairly common among enterprise users and corporations. Large entities will use sideloading and mobile device management software to install and keep track of apps and settings on their employee’s devices.
But there could be a darker side to sideloading.
As with anything else, there is always the possibility for that feature to be abused.
Facebook and Google were recently in the news because they used enterprise developer certificates to sideload apps onto user devices.
Both companies had to bypass the App Store on iOS because those sideloaded apps gained access to a root certificate and spied on their users. That was a pretty clear violation of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines.
Of course, enterprise developer certificates aren’t supposed to be used for this. So Apple revoked both Facebook’s and Google’s certificates in the wake of the abuse’s discovery. While that rendered the apps nonfunctional, there may be other firms or entities out there that use similar methods.
Malware & Spam
But sideloading apps can also be more malicious in nature. Malevolent entities may coerce or trick users into downloading sideloaded apps that can steal sensitive data from a user’s device.
Sometimes, these sideloaded applications will appear as spam-like mailboxes or as spammy apps. In either case, they might seem incredibly resistant to deletion.
Again, Apple’s stringent developer guidelines prevent most malicious apps from becoming an issue on the App Store. But as long as malevolent entities can trick you into sideloading an app, they can still get malware and spyware onto your iOS device.
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How to Remove Sideloaded Apps
The first step in removing sideloaded software is to delete any app on your iOS Home Screen’s app grid.
This is the same process as other apps
- Just tap and hold on the app until it wiggles.
- Then, tap on the X icon to delete it.
But sideloaded apps may also install what’s a management profile or configuration profile onto your device.
That could make it tricky actually to get rid of a sideloaded app.
These configuration profiles are typically used by MDMs or enterprise users, but they can also be harnessed by spying companies and bad actors.
How To Remove Sideloaded App Device Management Profiles
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap on General.
- Scroll down and tap on one of the following: Device Management, Profile Management, or Profile & Device Management. It may appear differently depending on the version of iOS that you’re running. Similarly, if you don’t have a profile on your device, it won’t appear in iOS 12.
- Tap on any configuration profile that you don’t want on your device.
- Then, tap on Delete Profile.
- You may be asked to authenticate with your device passcode. Enter it and tap on Delete again.
- Finally, restart your iOS device.
Sometimes, a spam profile will also add a mailbox to your account. You may keep receiving spam emails from this mailbox, even after you’ve deleted the profile associated with it.
You can manually remove a mailbox by going to Settings —> Passwords & Accounts. But keep in mind that you may need to delete the configuration profile first.
How to Avoid Sideloaded Apps
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. When it comes to sideloaded apps, it’s ideal that you avoid downloading them in the first place.
Even if you realize that the app is a piece of malware or is secretly spying on your, there is always the chance that it will collect sensitive data from your iOS device before you get the opportunity to remove it.
Here are just a couple of tips to keep you and your data safe from malicious sideloaded apps.
- Avoid downloading “research” or “market study” apps. We recommend doing so, even if the firm offering the app is otherwise reputable or will pay you for downloading the app. Read the fine print.
- Don’t trust any downloaded software that you got somewhere other than the App Store. If a site or link appears to be downloading non-App Store software onto your device, try to stop it immediately. Most of the times, you’ll want to hit Cancel.
- If you get a prompt asking for a profile or non-App Store app to be “trusted,” don’t trust it. Tap on Cancel and follow the tips above to remove the underlying software.
- Basic cybersecurity tips. Don’t click on links on questionable websites, within sketchy emails, or in texts from a person, you don’t know. These links may end up installing a profile onto your device.
We hope that you found this article useful and informative. Our suggestion is to always stick to downloading apps from the Apple App store. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or tips that you would like to share.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.