iOS, Android, Security, Privacy, and the Winner Is… Not Who You Think It Is!

Recent results of tests of the top 100 apps for iOS and for Android could be a real eye-opener for many

Check out each of these two mobile operating systems together with the keywords “security” and then “privacy” in your favorite search engine. It soon becomes clear how popular opinion stacks up for one versus the other. Yet recent results of tests of the top 100 apps for iOS and for Android could be a real eye-opener for many.

On the surface, it looks like there is one hero (well, sort of) and one villain in the security and privacy arena. The good guy, at least by popular vote, is iOS, which means of course that Android is cast in the role of the bad guy.

By many accounts, iOS has far fewer security and privacy problems than Android. Reasons for believing this may include the fact that Apple’s mobile operating system is a closed system, offering interfaces to app developers, but no chance to modify the inner workings of iOS. Apple’s reputation for quality products and programs is also well-established, in the PC and server world (just ask Microsoft), as in the mobile computing world.

Besides hardening iOS to give it industrial strength security, Apple has taken public stances in defense of the privacy of its users. Apple’s commitment to privacy signed by CEO Tim Cook includes sentences like “We don’t ‘monetize’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.” By comparison, Eric Schmidt of Google reportedly said, ““…A person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

On that basis, three, well, two-and-a-half cheers for Apple’s iOS, and yah boo sucks to Google and Android. In addition, Android as an open source operating system can be hacked around by anyone who wants, or morphed into lookalike but not identical versions, such as the one Samsung offers. Small wonder that Android seems to accumulate security alerts, issues, and flaws, not to mention being lambasted for lack of privacy, while iOS flies proud and high. Oh, and that 80% global mobile OS market share that Android has means that there’s no shortage of hackers and attackers to try their hand at making life miserable for Android app users.

And yet here’s the information that is going to upset the security and privacy applecart (pun absolutely intended). At Mi3 Security, we devote all our waking hours to finding new and better ways of testing apps and assessing risk (we’re already darn good at this, but modest enough to know we can always improve). We’ve tested the top 100 iOS and Android apps for security and privacy. On security, we go with the flow, iOS is better. But here’s the shocker: our findings demonstrate categorically that iOS has more privacy violations than Android.

So, instead of hero and villain, we end up with two mobile operating systems that both need to pull their socks up, iOS for privacy, and Android for security and privacy. And the moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you read on the web – or that you hear from vendors – but test with effective tools like AppInterrogator and RECON that pull no punches when it comes to evaluating whether an app is truly safe to use.