Android or iOS ? This has been the biggest rivalry in tech in the last part of this decade, maybe even bigger than the desktop war between Apple and Microsoft.
But choosing between Android and iOS is a decision you will have to make sooner or later. Each side has its own advantages, unique features and a huge sea of fans, but it seems the ultimate battleground will take place on security grounds.
Even with the fact that mobile security is “in a safe place”, cyber attackers are getting better at their jobs. Recent security concerns like xCodeGhost on iOS and QuadRooter on Android hint us that mobile security is an issue you should take into consideration when you’re shopping for a new device.
With this in mind, we are going to break down the two operating systems and find out which one is the better choice when it comes to mobile security.
The problem with the Android ecosystem is that it became very fragmented in the recent years. As opposed to iOS, Android has hundreds of different manufacturers that release thousands of devices with many different versions of the original Android OS.
The problem with this is, each customized Android version has the potential of having additional vulnerabilities on top of any core Android issues.
Even with the fact that Google is taking many steps in implementing control policies, it still has a long way to go until Android is considered a secured operating system.
On the plus side, Google did a very good job of purifying the app store of harmful apps. Furthermore, the implementation of automatic security updates has made it significantly easier to patch vulnerable applications.
But there is only so much Google can do to tighten up security. In its current form, Google can’t control all the potential integrations that Android have. This, doubled by the everlasting issue of fragmentation, make it very hard for all users to access the newest security updates.
Apple was always careful to build a “secured” aura around their iOS devices. The latest example of this is the refusal of Apple to unlock an iPhone 5C for the FBI which was smartly maneuvered to shift the conversation to how secure iOS devices really are. Apple then used that trend and announced even stronger encryption around iCloud and hardware to make it even harder to hack.
Apple does a better job at security, but that’s mainly because it has complete control over the iOS ecosystem – firmware, software, and hardware.
But even with this fact, over 300 apps were removed from the App Store in 2015 because they contained a malware called XCodeGhost. This showed that the Apple’s iOS platform is far from invulnerable to attack.
Because it maintains such a tight control over its OS, Apple has a significantly easier job to deal with potential security issues. iPhone and iPad users don’t have the problem of installing and running an up-to-date version of iOS, which makes their devices have up-to-date security measures.
It all boils down to how the two big companies let the end users customize their experience.
Android’s strong suit and biggest weakness are its openness. The fact that it’s open source lets users install apps outside the Play Store and customize their devices as they see fit.
Apple, on the other hand, built a walled garden around it’s OS. This means they can allow, deny or remove any apps they feel like. Because they made it mandatory to download all apps from the App store, made it very hard for developers to submit malicious apps.
If you jailbreak your device and give it escalated privileges, Apple says it’s your own fault, so be careful what apps you install.
Because it’s harder to crack the iOS nut, most malware writers take the easy route and go for Android. With this in mind, even though Android has made significant progress in securing their platform, iOS remains the most secure mobile operating system.
However, most security experts indicate that attacks on both platforms are only going to evolve with enhanced capabilities in the near future.