Smartphone Security: Android vs. iOS

When first powering up a new notebook or desktop computer, the first thing a security-savvy person does is make sure security is set up and working. Those who would steal information, use your computer as a launching pad for malicious programs, or are simply out to cause trouble are constantly on the prowl. They use links, scams, robots—every trick in the book to harm you. Security software isn’t perfect, but it does offer a layer of protection between you and an infection.

Smartphone Security

The same person who wouldn’t think of going without security on a personal computer will get a new smartphone, power it up, and do nothing in the way of security measures. A 2013 Consumer Reports study projected these eye-opening statistics, gleaned from smartphone users:

  • 64% don’t bother with a screen lock.
  • 69% don’t back up data.
  • 85% do not use an antivirus application.
  • 78% have no built-in way to locate a phone that is lost or stolen.
  • 39% take no protective measures whatsoever.

I use iOS, so no additional security is needed, right?

The idea that using iOS on any device makes it impervious to attacks is a dangerous myth. Moreover, while maybe 15% of personal computers in the U.S. are Apple, about 40% of the cell phones operate with iOS. That makes them inherently more attractive to hackers and thieves.

One thing Apple does have over Android is a better grip on application distribution. While it is possible to go outside of the Apple Store to get apps, most users play it safe and don’t. Android, on the other hand, is an open-source platform, Google Play is not the only place to get apps. Untested, poorly-secured, or even malicious applications are easy to come by for Android users.

That still doesn’t mean iOS is secure.

The 2014 Marble Labs Mobile Threat Report cuts right to the chase, pointing out that businesses without security measures for mobile phones are placing themselves in a scary situation.

Some people believe that iOS is a more secure operating system than Android. This report maintains that neither iOS nor Android is inherently more secure than the other. That said, Apple controls app distribution and OS version control in a more secure way, which creates a more secure operating environment than Android. However, the risks to enterprises allowing employees to bring in their own devices, whether iOS or Android-based, are not that dissimilar.

Are mobile devices all the same, then?

Given that no operating system is inherently safe, it may be the best approach to security, especially for those who don’t feel technologically-versed enough to set up and operate their own security is for manufacturers to offer built-in security right out of the box. Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 offers the Knox Workspace, promising heightened protection, especially for business users.

A 2012 Symantec survey estimated the average loss to businesses from a mobile computing security breach to be almost $500,000. That same study said this:

“Approximately three out of four organizations indicate maintaining a high level of security is a top business objective for mobility and 41 percent identified mobile devices as one of the top three IT risks, making it the leading risk cited by IT.”

Mobile security is a huge concern in business and should be a huge concern to every smartphone user. You may not risk a large sum of money, but you do risk your bank account, your credit record, your identification and anything else stored on or accessible by your phone. Mobile security is an urgent and vital issue. What are you doing to protect your phone from attack?

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Alejandro Heras

So iOS is a more secure environment. Every software is vulnerable, but Apple manages iOS in a more secure way. Be clear, an android device is not as secure as an iOS device is. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter if iOS could be attacked. The fact is that there’s no malware known today running on iOS (but jailbroken devices) what makes it a more secure environment with no doubt at all.