Jun 28 AT 12:14 PM Alberto Vildosola 23 Comments

Android vs. iOS; who has the best security?

We’ve all heard the question before. Which is the most secure? Android or iOS? iPhone users will tell you Apple’s iron fist guarantees the security of its users, while Android fans will say using an Android phone is just like using a PC–as long as you use common sense and protect yourself, you’ll be fine.

But which is actually more secure? Well, the fine chaps at Symantec took the time to find out. (Quick disclaimer: Keep in mind that Symantec’s business is to sell security software, so don’t expect an “everything is peachy” review of either iOS or Android).

Symantec’s report starts with iOS, claiming the platform offers “strong protection against traditional malware.” This is not that hard to understand, since Apple manually checks and approves every app that appears on the App Store. This strategy has many downsides, but it also has some upsides. One of those upsides is how hard it is for a malware-infested app to find its way to iOS devices. However, Symantec said that once an iOS user steps out of Apple’s walled garden by jailbreaking their device, they’re as vulnerable to malware as PC or Android users.

Android, on the other hand, is more like a PC or the open web. Users have the freedom to install whatever they want, but they must be careful not to download an infected application. Symantec says this is the reason we’re seeing an “increasing volume of Android-specific malware.”

The bad news doesn’t stop there for our favorite mobile OS. Symantec concludes that iOS is also better at “resisting malware attacks, resource abuse/service attacks, data loss and data integrity attacks.” Android only ties with iOS on their abilities to resist web-based attacks. However, Android does a little better in regards to specific security features. They best iOS ability to isolate processes, but failing to beat iOS on “access control, application provenance and encryption.” Ouch.

Interestingly, researchers have found many more vulnerabilities on iOS than Android. Roughly 200 have been found on iOS, compared to only 18 found on Android. Only 4 of those 18 remain unpatched by Google. Google is also faster than Apple when it comes to patching a vulnerability, averaging 8 days to Apple’s 12 days.

At the end of the report, Symantec concludes that, even though iOS and Android both have their weaknesses, the mobile platforms are still much more secure than their PC counterparts. In other words, if you already use your PC with security in mind, then you most likely won’t have an issue with either Android or iOS. What do you guys think? Is iOS really that much better in security than Android? Or does Android’s ability to install anti-virus makes it more secure?

Android_vs_iOS_security01 Android_vs_iOS_security02

Via: GigaOM

Source: Symantec

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

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  • http://Website Dev1359

    Less security is the price of an open platform. I’ve never heard of anyone getting malware on their Android phone though…I’d imagine you’d have to be a complete moron in order for that to happen

    • http://Website mwaterous

      Better security, and quicker patches is the price of an open platform. The only group it makes exploiting easier for is the script kiddies who are just learning how to uninstall the malware on their own computers; the people who know their business can find security vulnerabilities whether or not the platform is open (Microsoft?). Open platforms allow the white hats to jump in and provide fixes just as quick as the proprietary ‘owners’.

    • http://Website Jon Garrett

      iOS is closed yet it still has a giant security hole that to this day Apple cannot close. the security hole which enables jail-breaking.

      • Fangirl

        You can jailbreak androids and iPhones so what is the actual security hole?

  • KaiserJay

    Never understood why Google don’t automatically scan apk’s for malware as they are uploaded by developers. Any file flagged as having malware could then be manually checked for a false positive.

    Sure, it may add some time for uploading updates, but surely the positive press from securing the Android Market from malware outweighs this.

    • http://Website Daniel

      Because there are two forms of scan: either scanning for known malware, or scanning for unknown, potential problems (heuristics). There’s almost no known malware for Android, so there’s not even what to look for, and the known ones aren’t very likely to be reused. Heuristics are still very ineffective, only capturing the most trivial cases.

      Actually, it’s likely Google already has some heuristics in play (for example detecting for known root exploits) and we just never hear from anything they catch. If it exists, though, it clearly didn’t stop DroidDream and others.

  • http://Website Keefers

    Google does scan all apparently. The maleware apparently do not come from “The Market”, People download from other sources.

  • LukeT32

    No mention of lookout?

    And thanks again to Android and Me for the free Premium upgrade!

  • http://Website ben dover

    I would never trust my pc’s security with Symantec so I’ll take this with a grain of salt.

  • http://Website Mark

    Even though, Symantec has given a clean sheet now, we all know they are looking for a way to create paranoia and it is also well known that Symantec and others are desperately looking for a way to penetrate the mobile OS market with their resource hog “security” applications. Thankfully, Android runs off Linux. You hardly hear of a Linux system getting viruses, malware etc.

    • http://Website ian

      thats primarily because linux is rarely used compared to windows…

  • AME

    It’s a moot point… I’m not switching!

    iPhones could promise me 100% security and it wouldn’t influence my decision. On the other hand, if you told an iPhone user Android offered 100% security, they would still take their chances with their iPhones no matter how insecure they were.

  • http://Website Richard Yarrell

    I use top of the line security on my device and I am very fine with my choice. I stick with android and always will google to end….

    • http://Website Greg

      Top of the line security for bottom of the line brains.

  • http://www.xionsms.com/ xion

    android has more security than a iphone thats why i stick to android.

    visit http://www.xionsms.com for latest android and iphone tips and tricks and more.

  • Uncemister

    And on a 3D fad device no doubt…

  • http://Website mh

    Google’s Malware Problems

    There are about 300,000 apps in the Android Market, and this number is expected to hit 425,000 by the end of August, Research 2 Guidance has predicted.

    Meanwhile, In-Stat’s research shows that Android and Apple users are “significantly more likely” than BlackBerry users to download mobile apps.

    The two malware attacks that hit Android apps this year used variants of the same code. Lookout Mobile Security, which discovered the attacks, christened the malware “DroidDream.”

    It’s not clear exactly how many people were impacted in all, but Lookout Mobile estimates the June attack ht between 30,000 and 120,000 victims.

  • http://www.high-on-it.co.za Markus

    Everyone always says Iphone is the best, Android system is the best. I think let the facts speak for itself. And the fact is: Android packs the most features and doesn’t rely on marketing like the Iphone. That is the only reason they are successful.
    http://www.high-on-it.co.za/2011/08/ten-reasons-why-android-is-superior-to-the-iphone/

    • Erik

      10 reasons and not a single one that makes a difference to me as an iPhone user. It is always the same lame argument whether it is PC vs Mac, iPod vs other MP3 players or whatever: “My non-apple device have more feature check boxes checked than your iDevice”. When people still end up buying iDevices despite the fact that they have less feature check boxes checked, the excuses are familiar: “people are iSheep, it is because they are shiny, it is all the marketing, reality distortion field bla bla bla”.

      Why don’t you take one step back and think about *design*. By that I don’t mean the glitz, but how all the parts of a device is combined as a whole. How the interaction, look and feel is combined. Neither Mac, iPhone, iPod, or iPad blew the competition out of the water when they entered the market because they had more features. They always had LESS! The Mac didn’t even have arrow keys on the keyboard when it was introduced.

      They won because the user experience was much better. This still holds true against Android. iOS has a much more consistent user interface, less concepts to wrap your head around, easier to explore and learn. And this is much more than the core OS. Because of Apple’s rigid enforcement of standards iOS apps are much more consistent in behavior, look and feel.

      No matter how much improvements Google does to Android they can’t retroactively make all Android applications consistent with each other.

      Please note that it doesn’t mean I think iOS is “better” than Android. They have both made tradeoffs which have produced different strengths and weaknesses and there are room for both systems on the market. If you want more freedom and flexibility go with Android. If you want better usability and security go with iOS.

      I don’t know Android that well, so I am not going to put bets on this, but my impression is that iOS also has far more high quality applications than Android. I am thinking of things like the iWork applications, iMovie, Garage band, Omni Group applications like Omni Graffle etc.

      • Fangirl

        You’re right. I’ve used both. I cannot wait to go back to the iPhone! My user experience has been horrible on the Android. The OS and the UI clash on androids and this causes great problems and constant “system faliures”. I didn’t have this problem on my iPhone. The controls are slightly different based on who manufactured the device and the experience is just not consistent. From calendars not updating, to phonebook glitches, programs clashing, and the often repeated google.apps failure. I want my phone to work. I and others with droids have very long delays in pictures being sent and coming through (as long as a full day after). I love apple products, but I switched because of the open source and supposed freedom of Droid and I’ve found that the freedom that I was seeking has actually caused me more trouble than it’s worth.

  • Fangirl

    Androids are mostly a cheap knock of of iphone. For people who want to be able to mobile compute and have no interest in paying iphone $$ or having iphone quality then Androids are it.
    Droids are also for people who want more control over their phone as far as customizations go.
    In all honesty I kept customizing my android to look like my iphone. from the screen icons, to the text messaging.

  • Jeff

    I sold an iPhone 4 four months ago for $200 that went through the washing machine and two that worked for $625. I sold two brand new Samsung galaxy’s, a galaxy 2rocket and a galaxy note for only $800. The twoGalaxy 2 rockets we bought got viruses and kept on sending text messages to everyone. They couldn’t be fixed and it wasn’t covered by the warranty. Last week I sold my iPhone 4S for $400 used. What android phone can you sell 15months later for twice as much as what you paid or a 27month old phone that went through the washing machine for what you paid for it. I couldn’t sell Motorola atrix 1 and 2 for $150 and the atrix 1 was only 6months old and the atrix 2 was two weeks old. The atrix one had a fucking virus as well. Our phones are never jailed break and we don’t waist money on very many apps. I’ve downloaded maybe 15apps on all the phones combined.

  • ameliajoe

    I think Android have best security