iOS vs. Android – Which Is The More Secure Platform?

By   Adeola Adegunwa
Writer , Informationsecuritybuzz | Mar 30, 2023 01:45 am PST

When it comes to choosing a mobile operating system, the two giants that come to mind are iOS vs. Android. Both offer unique features and functionalities, but security is one of the most critical factors users consider when choosing a platform. Mobile devices contain a plethora of sensitive data, ranging from personal information to financial data, making it essential to ensure that the platform one chooses secure.

Android and iOS are the leading mobile operating systems, each with its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to security. Android is known for its customizability and open-source nature, while iOS is famous for its closed system and a more curated feel. This article will compare the security aspects of both platforms to help you decide which is safer. So, let’s get started and explore the battle of Android vs. iOS – which is the more secure platform?

Overview of Android and iOS Security

While Android and iOS have distinct security models, the end goal for both platforms remains the same – safeguarding user data and devices. Android is an open-source platform. This indicates that anyone can view and edit the code because it is publicly available. While this provides flexibility and customization for developers, it also makes the platform more vulnerable to security threats. It is because any malicious code can be easily integrated into the system, potentially compromising the device’s security.

To mitigate these risks, Google has implemented various security measures in the Android platform. For example, Android has built-in security features such as Google Play Protect, which scans apps for malware and other security threats. Google also has a bug bounty program, where researchers are rewarded for discovering and reporting security vulnerabilities in Android.

On the other hand, iOS is a closed system, meaning only Apple can access and modify the code. This makes it more secure than Android but also means that users have less control over their devices. However, iOS also has vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Apple has implemented various security measures to ensure its platform’s security. For example, iOS uses hardware-based encryption, which makes it more difficult for hackers to access user data. Additionally, iOS has a more stringent app review process, which includes manual reviews of each app before it is published on the App Store. It makes it less likely for malicious apps to make their way onto the platform.

iOS vs. Android: Homogeneous vs. Fragmented Ecosystems

One factor that can impact the security of a mobile platform is the ecosystem in which it operates. iOS has a more homogeneous ecosystem, meaning that most users are running the latest version of the operating system. In fact, 70% of iPhone users update their devices within 51 days of a patch being released. This is partly because Apple controls its products’ hardware and software, enabling quicker and more effective updates. As a result, iOS devices receive security patches more quickly, which helps to lower the possibility of known vulnerabilities being exploited.

The Android ecosystem, in comparison, is more dispersed, with a wider variety of devices and operating system versions in use. This can make it more challenging for security updates to be rolled out quickly and efficiently, leaving some devices vulnerable to known exploits. Additionally, some device manufacturers may not prioritize security updates, leaving users with older devices at a higher risk of being targeted by attackers.

iOS vs. Android: Vulnerability Comparison

Overall, the number and severity of vulnerabilities may vary depending on the platform, but both Android and iOS are vulnerable to attacks. According to recent statistics, Android had 547 vulnerabilities in the year 2021, compared to 357 for iOS. While Android and iOS have vulnerabilities, these recent statistics suggest that Android has more overall vulnerabilities. But it’s crucial to remember that a higher proportion of Android vulnerabilities are considered to have a low attack complexity, which means that they are easier to exploit. In contrast, iOS has more critical vulnerabilities, which suggests it is harder to compromise, but the rewards may be more significant.

iOS vs. Android: App Security

App security is a crucial aspect to consider when comparing iPhone and Android security. Though Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store have measures in place to limit exposure to malicious apps, the question remains how effective they are. 

The Apple Store is the only source of apps for iPhone users unless the device is jailbroken. Although this may seem restrictive, it is a key component of Apple’s overall security strategy. Each app on the App Store undergoes a manual review process by a member of the Apple Review team before being listed. However, even with Apple’s stringent review policy, malicious apps have managed to slip through and make it to the App Store.

In contrast, Android users have access to a larger pool of apps than iPhone users. Google Play Protect checks apps for malware and other issues, and Google claims to scan more than 100 billion apps on the Play Store daily. Moreover, like iOS, Android apps are sandboxed, limiting their access to other apps and files.

However, installing third-party apps on Android devices outside the Play Store is easier than on iPhones. Despite Google’s security measures, researchers frequently find malicious apps on the Play Store that have affected millions of Android devices.

Overall, while both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store have allowed some malicious apps to slip through, more reports of this happening on the latter have been documented. Therefore, Apple provides better app security for iPhone users than Google does for Android users.

iOS vs. Android: Updates and Update Frequency

When it comes to updates and update frequency, iOS provides a better user experience than Android. Apple releases a new iOS version every year, delivering over 70 major updates in 15 years. There have been at least seven updates since iOS 16 was released in September 2022, and frequent patches are rolled out between major releases. All iOS devices receive updates at once, ensuring the timely delivery of vital security patches. Apple also supports devices with updates for up to seven years, which is longer than Android’s three to five years.

In contrast, Android has received about 66 major updates since its launch in 2008, and updates can take significantly longer to roll out due to manufacturers independently testing them for compatibility issues. Android users receive updates less frequently than iPhone users, leaving them exposed to potential security vulnerabilities.

Although Android updates are not necessarily worse, data from cybersecurity firm Clario shows more search interest in iPhone update issues than Android over the last 12 years, indicating that Android may have fewer update issues. Nonetheless, Apple’s control over its devices allows for the swift delivery of updates, making iOS a better option for users who prioritize security and functionality.

iOS vs. Android: Third-Party Security Apps

In today’s world, securing your devices with trusted security apps like antivirus, VPN, password manager, and ad blocker is crucial. iOS vs. Android operating systems have a significant number of users, with over three billion Android users and one billion iPhone users. This has led to competition among software developers to create apps for both operating systems.

Since the Play Store has more apps than the App Store, Android users have a wider range of third-party security apps to choose from. However, both iPhone and Android users can access numerous highly-rated third-party security apps.

However, there are plenty of options for third-party security apps designed for iPhones and Android phones. It’s important to download apps only from the official app stores, which are the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, to ensure safety. Therefore, users can choose from a wide array of third-party security apps for their devices, regardless of their operating system.

iOS vs. Android: Real-World Exploits

Another way to gauge the security of a mobile platform is to look at real-world exploits. In recent years, numerous headlines have been about Android exploits being used in the wild by threat actors. These exploits may include malware, phishing attacks, or other forms of cyber attacks. In contrast, iOS exploits tend to be more targeted and often used by players in the mobile surveillance space.

The differences in real-world exploits may be partly due to the more fragmented nature of the Android ecosystem. Because there are so many different devices and versions of the operating system in use, it can be more challenging to create a targeted exploit that will work across all devices. In contrast, iOS devices have a more consistent hardware and software profile, making it easier to develop exploits that will work on a larger number of devices.

Conclusion: Which Platform is More Secure?

It’s hard to determine which platform is more secure as both iOS vs. Android have their vulnerabilities. Android has more vulnerabilities, but they may be easier to exploit. iOS, on the other hand, is harder to compromise, but vulnerabilities can be more severe. The security of a mobile platform also depends on the user’s behavior and security updates. Which platform to utilize ultimately comes down to personal preference and requirements. Android offers more customization, while iOS has consistent security updates and targeted exploits. Users need to stay vigilant, keep software updated, use strong passwords, and avoid downloading apps or clicking on links from unknown sources.

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