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iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?

George V. Hulme | Jan. 30, 2014
When it comes down to actually protecting enterprise users, is one mobile operating system – Android or iOS – more secure than another?

iOS vs Android

With millions of new iOS and Android devices pouring into the enterprise every quarter, it's important to know just how much risk these devices bring — and if one mobile operating system has an edge over another when it comes to securing enterprise applications and data.

When just looking at malware trends, the easy assumption may be that iOS is the safer platform. A US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Justice report published last year, for example, found that only 0.7% of all mobile malware targeted iOS, compared to the 79% that took aim at Android.

But there's much more to securing mobile devices than straightforward malware tallies. In addition to standard-grade spyware and other forms of malware, enterprises need be concerned about attacks specifically targeting their users, partners, as well as staying compliant to numerous industry and government regulations.

That's quite the challenge, but when it comes down to actually protecting enterprise users, is one mobile operating system — Android or iOS — more secure than another?

Android makes headway
Many contend Apple's mobile operating system is more secure, but Brian Katz, director, head of mobility engineering at Sanofi doesn't agree. Not completely, anyway. "It's a misnomer to say that iOS is more secure than Android," Katz says. "There are great aspects of iOS security that are built-in, but you still have to take steps to enable those secure features," he says. "You can't just start letting people use iPhones to access enterprise assets and think they are more secure because it's iOS."

Jay Leek, SVP and chief information security officer at The Blackstone Group would agree — somewhat. For a number of years now, the $250 billion (assets under management) private equity firm has supported only iOS for their enterprise mobile devices.

That decision was largely driven because of security concerns with the other mobile operating systems, as well as the high level of popularity of iOS with Blackstone's employees. Soon, however, Blackstone's IT team will be initiating support for Android. Not all Android based devices, but those that have been identified as securable, such as Samsung's secure mobile OS, Samsung KNOX.

"Whether iOS is more secure than Android is tough to answer. First, it depends on the Android hardware you're comparing it to. Samsung has done the most for Android when it comes to their hardware integrating with some of the Android security hooks. That's why, while we will support Android, we're not going to support Android broadly, we're going to support Android on certain devices," says Leek.

And it's this type of tight hardware integration that gives Apple the advantage, for now. "It only has one hardware platform that's married with the operating system. It's optimized," says Leek.


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