This is not exactly the first question that comes to people’s mind when they examine the specifications of a smartphone: security. They would ask about its capabilities, its price, its durability, its strengths and weaknesses in general, but not whether it guards their security. As smartphones have turned into a safe of critical personal information that cybercriminals are ferociously targeting, the issue of security should be front and center. So, it is high time that we considered this question: Which operating system is more secure? Google search provides you the answer hands down: Among Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, the latter is more secure. Why is Android system more vulnerable? Is there a way to remedy the vulnerabilities and enjoy a safe experience on an Android phone? This is what we will be tackling next.
More is Not Always “Completely” Better:
Larger Market Share Statista tells us that Android held 87% of the global market in 2019, with only 13% left to iOS. Why would a hacker target only 13% of the market while they can attack the 87%? So, Android’s wider adoptability and popularity made it a magnet for cybercriminals and virus writers.
Open-Source or Open-to-Attacks?
Interestingly, right next Statista explains that it is the open-source software model that paved the path to this magnanimous success. What does open source mean? It means that the original source code upon which the software itself is built is available to everyone and can be modified by anyone with the technical know-how. Oh oh! That is too far a move away from the security front. On the contrary, the iOS is a closed system that is tightly and solely controlled by Apple.
Being an open-source means the system can be redistributed to any smartphone manufacturer. It also entails that users can develop their own applications and upload them to the Play Store. Contrary to this, Apple owns the device, the system, and the App Store. Apple takes between 24 and 48 hours to review new apps submitted to the App Store, whereas a new app could find its way to the Google Play Store within 2 to 4 hours from its submission. Android in general is designed for customizability, openness, and affordability, but at the expense of security. The numbers Forbes cited from RiskIQ show that 25,657 apps have been blacklisted on the Google Play Store in the year 2019, which is itself a remarkable drop from 108,000 apps in 2018. When it came to Apple’s App Store, there were no numbers or estimates given, only a statement that Apple “rarely hosts dangerous apps.” To be fair, we have make a comment here. Apple is not totally immune to such attacks, but it does better than Android.
Updates, but for How Long?
Again, being an open-source, the Android system is not as sturdy as the iOS on the updates front. An iPhone owner usually continues to receive system updates for around two years; Android users, however, do not enjoy that privilege, with Android rolled out on a variety of smartphone brands. The security responsibility is tossed back and forth between the system developer and the device manufacturer. Additionally, the breadth of manufacturers who opt for the Android operating system and hence the number of devices that depend on it make it more difficult to launch these security updates to all users.
Working around the Vulnerabilities
Since Apple works in a closed-source manner, Android is the system of choice for a wide range of smartphone developers, and consequently is more affordable to the masses. However, this does not mean that we have to make a tradeoff between affordability and security. With some wise and intuitive steps, we can work around the vulnerabilities and advance on the security front.
- Download apps from trusted sources, not from third party vendors. Check the ratings and reviews on the Play Store and, when possible, examine the reputation of the app developer. Even if the Google Play Store has its share of malware and adware, it will be far more secure and more authentic than other providers.
- Stay vigilant on the updates front. Check the status of your system and app updates and make sure you are running them regularly.
- Install an original full-suite antivirus to fend off viruses, malware, and spyware. Let it test each new app you download.
The world is changing. You can stay safe and enjoy security regardless of the operating system you use.