According to the McAfee Mobile Threat Report 2018, “Criminal quest for money could make 2018 the year of mobile malware.”
The cyber criminals have been creating new malware by targeting major mobile platforms like Android and Apple. The mobile malware differs from each other in the category of design goals and targeted mobile platform. Many cyber criminals these days create malware by targeting Android due to its dominance over the worldwide smartphone OS market. But much mobile malware are also created by targeting iOS as Apple App Store is more profitable than Google Play Store.
Hence, both iOS and Android are vulnerable to a variety of targeted malware attacks. But many security analysts believe that iOS is generally more secured than Android. No mobile app nowadays can keep users engaged and prevent user abandonment without keeping user’s personal and business data secured. While developing mobile apps, the developers must compare iOS and Android platforms based on a set of crucial criteria including security.
Assessing Mobile Platform Security in 2018: Android vs. iOS
Worldwide Market Share
The latest mobile OS market share data posted on several websites depict that Android dominates the worldwide mobile OS market with a share of more than 74%. Also, Android currently has a much larger user base than iOS. Its massive market share and huge user base make Android more vulnerable to targeted malware attacks than iOS. Many cybercriminals create new mobile malware by targeting Android to access a much higher number of devices and huge volumes of user data.
Unlike iOS, Android is available as an open source software. Google allows device manufacturers to use its mobile operating system without paying any licensing fees. Also, the device manufacturers have the option to make changes to default operating system versions of Android without any restriction. Often changes made to Android’s default operating system version leads to security vulnerabilities. The security vulnerabilities make it easier for cybercriminals to access and steal user data by executing targeted malware attacks.
Both iOS and Android have been evolving continuously. Each new version of these operating systems comes with new and enhanced security features to improve data security and prevent emerging security threat. Apple allows iPhone and iPad users to avail these security features by upgrading to the latest version of iOS. But Android users lack the option to avail the enhanced security features provided by the most recent version of Google’s mobile OS without changing their devices. At present, the latest version of Android has a much lower penetration rate than earlier versions. Hence, users often fail to prevent emerging malware attacks while using Android devices.
Apple implement new security features regularly to make iPhone and iPad score over Android devices. Apple further implements the new features in the best way to optimize user experience. Many manufacturers also implement innovative features to make their Android devices stand out in the crowd. But these manufacturers often focus on beating completion by implementing new security features early. For instance, specific models of iPhone and Android devices manufactured by Samsung currently support facial recognition feature. But Apple optimizes data security and outperforms Android devices by keeping the facial recognition option robust and unbreakable.
App Review Guidelines
The strict app review guidelines imposed by Apple contribute hugely towards making iOS apps more secure than Android apps. When a developer submits an iOS app for review, Apple gets it reviewed at multiple levels. Hence, the security vulnerabilities in iOS apps are detected and repaired before publications. The option helps users to eliminate chances of data loss by downloading only secured apps. On the other hand, the app review guidelines implemented by Google are not as strict as App Store review guidelines. Hence, often malicious apps make it into Google Play Store.
Jailbroken Devices and External Apps
Google allows users to download Android apps from third-party mobile app stores. The apps distributed through unofficial mobile app stores often lack robust security features. The users often compromise the security of their personal and business data by downloading apps from external mobile app stores. Apple does not allow users to download apps from any third-party mobile app stores. But many users remove some of the security features and restrictions implemented by Apple by jailbreaking their iOS device. The jailbroken iPhones and iPads are less secure than most Android apps.
Overall, cyber criminals have been creating and distributing new mobile malware by targeting both Android and iOS. But Android is more vulnerable to these targeted mobile malware attacks than iOS due to its open-source nature, device fragmentation, and huge user base. But the developers must keep in mind the specific versions of iOS and Android while assessing mobile platform security.