In early March, we modified the functions of several Kaspersky Lab mobile apps for Android and iOS. Here, we examine what’s different, what apps are affected, and the reasons for the changes.
What’s changed in Kaspersky Safe Kids?
The parental control software Kaspersky Safe Kids for iPhone and iPad has shed two features: application control and Safari blocking.
Application control is used to block certain programs that parents consider unsuitable for their children. Safari blocking is needed to ensure that children go online only through the secure browser built in Kaspersky Safe Kids. In iOS, these features are now unavailable, but on other platforms, application blocking still works as before.
In Kaspersky Safe Kids for Android, the changes are different: Call and SMS monitoring has disappeared (which was an Android-only feature anyway). This means that Kaspersky Safe Kids will cease to notify parents about how much and with whom their children communicate using voice and SMS.
What’s changed in Kaspersky Internet Security for Android?
Some features have also changed in Kaspersky Internet Security for Android. The following are no longer available:
- SMS scanning for phishing
- Incoming call identification
- Allowing calls from contacts only
The privacy protection feature for hiding selected contacts is also gone. These contacts can either be returned to the general list or deleted. See here for how to do this.
Likewise, the built-in Anti-Theft module has been stripped of two features: the option to receive on your phone the number of a SIM card inserted into a missing device after Lost Mode is enabled, and the option to erase selected personal data from the lost device. That said, it remains possible to delete all data at once from the device and reset it to factory settings.
No changes to other apps?
Kaspersky Safe Kids and Internet Security for Android are part of the Kaspersky Internet Security, Kaspersky Total Security, and Kaspersky Security Cloud integrated security systems. Therefore, the changes described also apply to users of these suites on Android and iOS platforms. On all other operating systems, everything is the same as before.
Why change anything?
The features in the iOS and Android versions of the app were removed for similar reasons in both cases: Apple and Google modified their operating systems, and with those changes came new requirements for apps allowed into the App Store and Google Play.
Google considers access to the call log or SMS permissions too dangerous. As such, this permission is now available only to apps whose main function is directly related to messages or calls.
The situation with Apple is slightly different. In the latest version of iOS 12, the company implemented a proprietary feature to control how much time the user spends (or can spend) on a particular app. Apple then deemed the feature redundant in other apps, following an update to the requirements for App Store programs.
What about other developers? Are their apps affected as well?
The rules are the same for all who upload apps to the two services. That is, they extend not only to Kaspersky Lab, but to all developers who create mobile apps and distribute them through these official stores.
So, many other apps have also been deprived of similar features. In the case of Google Play, no antivirus app will be able to access call log or SMS permissions. In the App Store, no apps except ones made by Apple will be permitted to block access to other apps.
How will this affect users?
As often happens, the changes to the Google and Apple rulebooks are both good and bad.
On the one hand, plenty of examples come to mind of programs in Android misusing the SMS access feature. We already looked at Trojans that exploit this function to intercept one-time passwords sent by banks. So in theory, this screw-tightening should make Android a safer platform.
On the other hand, an exception could’ve been made for apps from trusted developers who need this feature for security purposes. That would ultimately benefit users.
The situation with Apple is less clear-cut. The company is essentially a newcomer to the parental control apps market, and it is seeking to cut off the oxygen supply to competitors — those with a long-established presence in the market (not only Kaspersky Lab by any means).
One could argue that because iOS and the App Store belong to Apple, there is nothing underhanded here — the company is entitled to act as it pleases. But that’s missing the bigger picture.
If Apple were a relatively small company, no one would say a word. But it happens to be a monopolist in its market segment: iOS-driven mobile devices.
The iPhone and iPad are not interchangeable with Android smartphones and tablets. Die-hard iPhone users cannot simply hop over to Android. It takes time, effort, and money to get set up with a new interface. The upshot is that Apple devices represent a separate market fully controlled by one company.
Leveraging its monopoly position, Apple restricts competition in the relatively small segment of parental control apps. This is certainly not good for users; healthy competition is the prime catalyst of progress and price reduction.
What comes next?
On the whole, neither Kaspersky Internet Security for Android nor Kaspersky Safe Kids has lost any key features. What we had to axe, our developers will endeavor to make good in subsequent releases through other means.
Moreover, we remain hopeful that Google and Apple, having carefully weighed the pros and cons, will relax their requirements for tried-and-trusted developers.