As many individuals rely on their mobile phones to access information and buy products and services, businesses create mobile-first websites. Additionally, smart devices have become an integral part of organizations' IT infrastructure as they adopt remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, making mobile devices the most convenient work tools for many employees.
Nonetheless, the increased connectivity of mobile devices has opened loopholes for malicious cyber-security threats to people and businesses. But these devices use two major operating systems: Android and iOS. It begs the question: which operating system between the two provides better data security against cyber security attacks?
This post will answer some critical questions about the two operating systems concerning the level of proofing each provides against mobile security threats, such as malicious apps and websites, ransomware, phishing, Man-in-the-Middle (MITM), device and OS exploits, etc.
Although this question is very much up for debate, I think iOS offers a more secure mobile operating system. Why? It is a closed system. That means Apple doesn't provide developers with access to its source code. It also implies iPhone and iPad owners cannot tweak the code on their devices themselves. That makes it challenging for hackers to find weaknesses on iOS-powered devices.
Android devices rely on open-source code, which means Android device owners can modify the code on their phones or tablets. Continued modification exposes vulnerabilities on Android devices. Then there's the case with manufacturers. If a phone brand rolls out a new device with modifications to the OS, it exposes vulnerabilities to the code, making it easy for hackers to find it.
Still, it's high time even iOS users be vigilant and change their security practices with the change in the working environment. Forbes found out that: In this business age when employees are working from home, Apple users has access to more company data now than in the pre-pandemic era. That has motivated hackers to develop target iPhone and iPad owners to retrieve critical data and use it for malicious gains.
The biggest pro of iOS is that it leverages a closed ecosystem, and the entire line of Apple devices (both hardware and software) come from the same company. Apple needs not support thousands of devices with different components that use their own drives.
Unlike Apple, Android's open-source code means developers/phone manufacturers can change the code to support the devices they build. The caveat is that developers have varied levels of cyber-security expertise and experience, leading to various levels of mobile security in Android devices. A seasoned hacker can easily find vulnerabilities within the Android OS to retrieve the device's data.
Another upside to iOS devices is that users can only download apps from the Apple Store. Any app in the store is carefully vetted to ensure there's no malware. While the screening program has its weaknesses, having the entire suite of apps in a centrally controlled store minimizes the risks for installing malicious apps on iPhones or iPads.
The only disadvantage is that it functions on a closed code. Hence, its security capabilities can't be scrutinized like Android since people outside Apple can't access the source code.
Android's open-source code is an advantage and disadvantage. Here's the upside: The open-source ecosystem allows developers to scrutinize the code, identify any vulnerabilities, and report them for revamped security.
The downside is that the open-source leaves all the security responsibilities to the end-product manufacturer. They must ensure that the modified codes installed in their devices are ultimately secure since tinkering the code is critical to ensure its device usability. These developers don't have a standard security standing, which means that the level of security varies from one manufacture to the other.
Furthermore, Android doesn't limit device owners to install apps from Google Store. Users can install apps from any source, including third-party sources which don't have as strict vetting processes as Apple. It's easy to install an unverified app steeped in malware. It would be best for users to purchase apps from manufacturers and app stores with the best security practices.
There have been myriad mobile OS updates. And while most have had their security flaws, the worst vulnerability in the mobile OS history is the Android text message (MMS) vulnerability. It can infect your mobile device simply by receiving an MMS file or text message.
It's highly infectious because, unlike other malware, Android users don't necessarily have to open the message for their phones to be under threat. The hack happens even before the chime in your phone alerts you of a received message. The silence and subtleness it comes with are what make it so dangerous. Together with other vulnerabilities, an attacker can access any account accessed by an Android device, including emails, banking profiles, and social media.
According to the New York University (NYU) IT News, Google Hangouts and "Stagefright" media player are the causes of the vulnerability. After activation, Hangouts automatically processes all MMS files. If you receive a malicious text, Hangouts will read it, and Stagefright will execute and send the malicious code to your phone.
Although Google has tried to update security programs for Android, the OS's open-source code means device manufacturers (LG, Samsung, Techno, HTC, etc.) have control of the software. They are the ones to modify the code in their devices to further protect users against this threat.
Android is an open-source OS and a corresponding Google open-source project. It means any developer or phone manufacturer can use it to design their device. While that presents a security threat to Android users, the open-source infrastructure is a weakness.
It opens up several layers and susceptibility considering different developers and companies are responsible for device security and OS updates. The lack of a central, uniform control increases vulnerability exposures, providing potential hackers with a chance to phish data and create complex algorithms that attack Android users' mobile data.
In my opinion, iOS provides more security than Android. The latter's open-source system allows many parties to share within its ecosystem. Additionally, the process of downloading an app is different in either platform. Apps in Apple are strictly screened for malware before approval, making it inherently more secure.
In this iOS vs. Android debate, the former takes the crown hands-down. It closed-source code and thorough app evaluation makes it more secure. Android's open source system means anyone can customize it, introducing more variability throughout the system and hackers take advantage of the vulnerabilities created. Think of it as too many cooks in the kitchen. It results in inconsistency in the broth.
At Orbis Solutions, we provide client-centric managed IT services and cyber-security solutions in Las Vegas. If you'd like to set up a reliable IT infrastructure or are concerned about your current technology, contact us today! We'll offer IT solutions that alleviate cyber security threats, increase productivity, and help you achieve your business goals.
Thanks to our friends in Chicago, CEU Technologies for their help with this article.