# App Transport Security (ATS)

# Load all HTTP content

Apple introduced ATS with iOS 9 as a new security feature to improve privacy and security between apps and web services. ATS by default fails all non HTTPS requests. While this can be really nice for production environments, it can be a nuisance during testing.

ATS is configured in the target's Info.plist file with the NSAppTransportSecurity dictionary (App Transport Security Settings in the Xcode Info.plist editor). To allow all HTTP content, add the Allow Arbitrary Loads boolean (NSAllowsArbitraryLoads) and set it to YES. This is not recommended for production apps, and if HTTP content is required, it is recommended that it be selectively enabled instead.

# Selectively load HTTP content

Similar to enabling all HTTP content, all configuration happens under the App Transport Security Settings. Add the Exception Domains dictionary (NSExceptionDomains) to the top level ATS settings.

For every domain, add a dictionary item to the Exception Domains, where the key is the domain in question. Set NSExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads to YES to disable the HTTPS requirement for that domain.

# Endpoints require SSL

Introduced in iOS 9, all endpoints must adhere to the HTTPS specification.
Any endpoints not using SSL will fail with a warning in the console log. To your application it will appear that the internet connection failed.

To configure exceptions: Place the following in your Info.plist file:

  1. Allow particular domain (testdomain.com) only:

The key that permits such behavior is NSExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads. In this case, app will allow HTTP connection to mentioned domain (testdomain.com) only and block all other HTTP connections.

The key NSIncludesSubdomains specifies that any and all subdomains of the mentioned domain (testdomain.com) should also be allowed.

  1. Allow any domain:

In this case, app will allow HTTP connection to any domain. As of January 1st 2017, using this flag will cause thorough App Store review and the app developers will have to explain why they need to use this exception in the first place. Possible explanations include:

  • An application that loads encrypted media content that contains no personalized information.
  • Connections to devices that cannot be upgraded to use secure connections.
  • Connection to a server that is managed by another entity and does not support secure connections.

# Parameters

Parameter Details
NSAppTransportSecurity Configure ATS
NSAllowsArbitraryLoads Set to YES to disable ATS everywhere. In iOS 10 and later, and macOS 10.12 and later, the value of this key is ignored if any of the following keys are present in your app’s Info.plist file: NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsInMedia, NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsInWebContent, NSAllowsLocalNetworking
NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsInMedia Set to YES to disable ATS for media loaded using APIs from the AV Foundation framework. (iOS 10+, macOS 10.12+)
NSAllowsArbitraryLoadsInWebContent Set to YES to disable ATS in your app’s web views (WKWebView, UIWebView, WebView) without affecting your NSURLSession connections. (iOS 10+, macOS 10.12+)
NSAllowsLocalNetworking Set to YES to disable for connections to unqualified domains and to .local domains. (iOS 10+, macOS 10.12+)
NSExceptionDomains Configure exceptions for specific domains
NSIncludesSubdomains Set to YES to apply the exceptions to all subdomains of the selected domain.
NSRequiresCertificateTransparency Set to YES to require that valid, signed Certificate Transparency (CT) timestamps, from known CT logs, be presented for server (X.509) certificates on a domain. (iOS 10+, macOS 10.12+)
NSExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads Set to YES to allow HTTP on the selected domain.
NSExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy Defaults to YES; Set to NO to disable Forward Secrecy and accept more ciphers.
NSExceptionMinimumTLSVersion Defaults to TLSv1.2; Possible values are: TLSv1.0, TLSv1.1, TLSv1.2
NSThirdPartyExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads Similar to NSExceptionAllowsInsecureHTTPLoads, but for domains that you have no control over
NSThirdPartyExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy Similar to NSExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy, but for domains that you have no control over
NSThirdPartyExceptionMinimumTLSVersion Similar to NSExceptionMinimumTLSVersion, but for domains that you have no control over

# Remarks

The App Transport Security is a security feature in iOS and macOS. It prevents apps from establishing unsecured connections. By default, apps can only use secure HTTPS connections.

If an app needs to connect to a server via HTTP, exceptions must be defined in the Info.plist. (see the examples for more information about that)

Note: In 2017, Apple will enforce ATS. That means, that you can no longer upload apps that have ATS-exceptions defined in the Info.plist. If you can provide good arguments, why you have to use HTTP, you can contact Apple and they might allow you to define exceptions. (Source: WWDC 2016 - Session 706)

More information on the App Transport Security configuration can be found in the CocoaKeys Documentation.