If you thought your iPhone or iPad was impenetrable to malware or other malicious software, it's time to think again: A new study by Marble Mobile Security has found that both iOS and Android devices are equally at risk for infection from harmful programs and downloads.
A long-established trope in the computing world has been that Apple (APPL) devices typically are less susceptible to malware, spam and other harmful software than their PC counterparts, and as mobile devices have become more commonplace, the idea migrated to iOS and Android as well. But, according to Marble Labs’ analysis of their relative vulnerability to 14 leading mobile security threats, both platforms are comparably risky. However, they expose users to different types of threats.
The company also analyzed 1.2 million iOS and Android apps in its Marble Labs Mobile Threat Report, June 2014, which unveiled gaming and news apps on iOS are currently the greatest security risks out of any other app category on the platform.
“Enterprise security managers need to know that Apple’s vaunted iOS mobile security reputation hinges on its app distribution control, not on any inherent superiority of its operating system,” said Marble Security Founder and CTO David Jevans in a statement. “We broke it down in our labs against 14 leading attack vectors for mobile devices, and aside from their app distribution control, iOS and Android are equally at risk to the mobile security threatscape facing the enterprise. The takeaway for network security managers is you cannot take iOS device security on faith and allow those users unfettered access to corporate resources.”
While much has been written on the relative security of the Android platform against infection, Marble chose to focus its latest study on iOS attacks. In addition to its findings in regards to the vulnerability of iOS games and news apps, the study found that the attack surface for both platforms are similar enough that attackers have found ways to attack users with malicious apps through SMS or through unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots, regardless of platform. Additionally, the risk of jailbreaking iOS and Android phones is equally high, with several programs known as “jailbreak jammers” capable of blocking devices from being recognized by enterprise mobile device management systems.
There is one major difference when it comes to the risk factors associated with iOS and Android, however. According to Marble Labs, iOS threats such as hostile configuration profiles, unencrypted email attachments and backup highjacking are prevalent on iPhones and iPads, yet less common on Android devices. Last month, F-Secure released a study on Android security that revealed 99 percent of new mobile malware in 2014 has been targeted toward Android devices. However, another report by Crittercism in April found that Android is the most stable mobile OS around, with a majority of Android KitKat users experiencing crashes less than 1 percent of the time.
So what is one thing you can take away from this latest bit of news about mobile OS security? Pick the operating system that’s right for you and don’t keep yourself up at night worrying about whether you made the right choice. No matter which OS you use, there are bound to be inherent risks and benefits, and it seems no one in the channel can offer conclusive evidence as to which one is “better.” At the end of the day, the best protection will come from being savvy about what you decide to do with your device, because the end user is ultimately the last line of defense against infection no matter what platform you choose to use.