Enterprise App Certificates 2019

What Organizations Need To Know About The New Rules

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Steven Lerner

enterprise app certificates

Deploying enterprise mobile apps can sometimes be quite a hassle. There are security patches and software weaknesses that can be challenging and must be addressed. For internal app distribution, enterprise app certificates can help with this process.

The Apple Developer Enterprise Program allows organizations to seamlessly and securely deploy mobile apps through the App Store. This includes apps designed for iPhones, Macs, and Apple Watches.

In an effort to help enterprises distribute software to employees, Apple originally eased restrictions for its highly-regulated App Store. With enterprise app certificates, organizations were able to deploy internal-facing apps on the App Store without being subjected to the App Store's strict guidelines.

To gain access to the certificate and bypass the App Store regulations, enterprises only needed to pay an annual fee of $299. Through the enrollment, organizations can assign team roles in the program, and receive access to the latest SDKs and tools.

For most organizations, having an enterprise app certificate under these rules was beneficial. Enterprises could quickly deploy apps without going through Apple’s review period, which could take a few days.

Although there are many types of devices and operating systems in the enterprise, iOS is by far the most popular. A 2018 survey found that 75% of enterprise employees prefer an iPhone or an iPad to an Android device. Therefore, having an enterprise app certificate from Apple is critical to improving the employee experience.

As part of the Apple Developer Enterprise Program, organizations receive some perks. These include tools, such as identifiers and profiles for code signing and provisioning devices. Apple also provides some testing and support to those companies enrolled in the program.

Apple’s 2019 Rule Change For Enterprise App Certificates

In early 2019, there were some troubling reports about the Apple Developer Enterprise Program. Pirate operations, such as TutuApp, Panda Helper, AppValley and TweakBox, were able to acquire enterprise app certificates.

These unlawful software distributers than took advantage of Apple’s lax enterprise rules and deployed forbidden apps on the App store. Some of the illegal apps included bootleg versions of streaming apps without ads and gambling apps. There was even a report that a spyware app was able to abstract data from users’ iPhones, and that app may have been produced by a government surveillance software developer.

Since Apple had no way to distinguish between legitimate enterprise app certificates and forged ones, it had to take action. In June 2019, right before WWDC, Apple updated its terms and conditions. According to the new rules for the Apple Developer Enterprise Program:

  • Apple reserves the right to review, approve, or reject any app
  • The vetting could occur at any moment
  • It the app is under review, the developer must cooperate with Apple
  • If Apple rejects any app, the developer must remove it.

Due to the new rules, it is certainly possible that some enterprise apps might not be deployed immediately. There’s also a slight risk that Apple could reject an enterprise app for any reason. Therefore, enterprise mobile app distributors must factor these new regulations into the deployment.