iOS Vs. Android: A Glimpse Of Two Biggest Mobile OS Security


According to the latest survey conducted by the International Data Corporation, Android and iOS account for 85% of the Smartphone market share with Android having a lion’s share of the market powering 68.1% Smartphones globally. No wonder these two operating systems are often compared head to head. For any Smartphone buyer one of the major areas of concern should be security, but unfortunately most of us take note of the screen size, resolution, processor and camera often ignoring the security features.

Now where do these security issues arise, one of the most potent sources of security concerns are the third-party apps. Their features and functionalities often entice us so much that we overlook the security issues leaving our phones vulnerable. In this write-up we shall compare the security features of both Android and iOS and offer you basic advice on how to secure your Smartphones.

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Issues That Concern You

Most of our Smartphones are packed with personal information and any breach of security can cause a lot of harm directly or indirectly. Here are some of the common issues that may arise if the security of your Smartphone is compromised.

  • Unauthorized access to emails and social networking accounts set up on the phone.
  • Unauthorized access to confidential data and passwords stored on the phone.
  • Misuse of personal messages and phone book and making calls to premium numbers.

What’s Common in iOS and Android Security?

Before we compare the security features of both these operating systems let us take a look at what is common between these two OS in terms of security features.

  • Access Control System: The first security feature of any Smartphone is how it is unlocked. In this, both iOS and Android use the traditional access control system where the user is required to type a password, follow a pattern or slide to unlock the device. Passwords and patterns are more secured than sliding feature. This is the first line of defense for your Smartphone.
  • Permission Control System: Apart from the access control system, both these operating systems also have permission based access. Here, the phone sends out a security alert every time an application tries to access sensitive data or file from the phone. This prevents application from directly accessing the phone’s hardware. For example, if a social media app wants to access your phonebook that is justified, but a calculator app asking for it should raise suspicion!
  • Web-Based Attack: While using an Android powered device or an iPhone you don’t have to worry about web-based attacks as both these phones have enough security mechanism to thwart off any such attack.

What Separates Android From iOS?

1. Application Store

There is considerable difference in how the applications for Android and iOS are marketed among the users. For iPhone applications you need to download it from the Apple App Store, where every app undergoes stringent checks and validation before being made available to the users. Developers need to submit binary package of the app which are approved by Apple’s engineers. In case, an app poses risks to the platform, they are removed from the App Store.

In case of Android, you can download the apps from Android Market and a number of third-party websites. The entry barrier is low and most of the apps are showcased on the market place without too many quality checks. This allows malicious apps to make their way to the store posing risks to the end users.

2. Openness

In the Smartphone world, it is generally defined as the availability of the source code system among a large number of users. This allows users to tweak the OS and add their own flavor, discover the security issues and fix them.

As all of us known that Android is an open-source operating system. which has made it immensely popular among users around the world. This means that the source code available for anyone who needs to read, understand, implement or test the features of the platform. This allows new technologies to be implemented easily in Android and bugs to be fixed faster.

On the other hand, iOS is a closed platform where only the SDK is available to the developers. This does restrict the number of bugs in the operating system, but also delays the speed at which these bugs are found and fixed in.

There is a common myth that open-source OS are more vulnerable as compared to the closed ones, but all we can say is that it’s only a myth as vulnerabilities don’t arise due to the operating system, but how it is used.

3. Permission Control System

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Yes, we are again talking about the permission control system. Though both Android and iOS have their own way of execution.

While installing an app, the Android users can see the list of data and hardware that the app would access after being installed. The application starts downloading only when you grant it the permission to access the hardware and the data. For iOS users, it is slightly different as the permission-based access control system comes into play once the app has been installed on the device. If you deny permission to the app to use your data and hardware after installation it will cease to function properly.

Along with this, iOS has the geolocation and auto-erase feature that comes in handy, if you have lost your iPhone. While the geolocation feature allows you to locate the phone using its GPS the auto erase feature allows you to erase all the data in your phone remotely. You can also activate the self-destruct feature where in the data would be destroyed upon 10 failed attempts to access the phone. Though Android doesn’t have this as a standard feature, some manufacturers like HTC have customized their phones to be located using geolocation and remote data erasing features.

Security Weaknesses

Both these Smartphone operating systems have their share of weakness which makes you vulnerable

iOS: In case of the iOS, a major security threat exists for all devices that are powered by operating system prior to iOS 4.3.5. This is often termed as the SSL MITM security flaw and exists for millions of iPhones which cannot be upgraded to the new version of the iOS. You can obviously choose to jail break to the new version of the OS, but that would come along with new set of vulnerabilities.

Android: Its success with openness is its biggest failure in terms of security as there isn’t a quality mechanism updating handsets to the latest firmware that leaves the room for bugs and errors. To go around this, you can install a custom ROM and get rid of carrier-enforced software and always being hooked to the latest version of the operating system. These shields you against the common vulnerabilities associated with outdated operating systems.

The Verdict

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Your Smartphone is as secure as you want it to be as there is little to choose between Android and iOS when it comes to the security features. However, keeping a few basic things in mind can go a long way in securing your phone from external threats. Some of these measures are –

  • Keep the phone updated with the latest version of the operating system.
  • Use a password comprising of alphabets, numbers and special characters which is difficult to guess.
  • Download apps from trusted sources after reviewing the permissions they require.
  • Install security software such as anti-virus and firewall.
  • Install a device tracking software on your phone
  • Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi network for sending sensitive data
  • Always disable wireless connections when not in use.

This guest post is contributed by Mike Spencer. He is a seasoned writer and an online marketer who currently works with Valuecoders, a renowned application development agency with a global presence. One can hire professional android developers for their android app development needs. Valuecoders also offers a wide range of other services namely iPhone application development, web application development,application maintenance, Joomla development and much more.

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