Malicious Mobile Apps

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Question: is it true that iPhone apps are safer than Android apps because Apple is so careful about developers allowed to offer apps to iPhone users?

The explosion of mobile applications is happening so fast that issues of safety and security seem to be taking a back seat.

A big contributor to this lacking security is confusion and a poor understanding of just what exposure a mobile app can be to private information. Your smartphone has a lot of very valuable data to marketers and those with malicious intent: location, call history, text messages, e-mail, contacts, browsing history, your phone number.

Once an application is loaded on your smartphone, it can do whatever the programmer has instructed it to do, with or without your ongoing permission.

With these two platforms, Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS, there are some significant differences in how apps are distributed and what users are told when they install the apps.

Google’s Android platform is a more open system for app developers, so users don’t have to download all their apps from the Android Marketplace.  The benefit in openness is that over time, more developers are apt to build apps for the Android platform because they know that they can get it to market without getting Google’s approval, which can lower the overall costs & eliminates the uncertainty of getting the app approved.

Right now, there are several hundred thousand apps for the iPhone and less than 100,000 for Android phones, and nearly 64 percent of Android applications are free, compared to the only 28 percent for the iPhone applications. Bearing in mind malicious apps are likely to be free apps, Android apps alert the user during the install on what will be accessed on their phone by using the app and must get the user’s approval.

Think like a hacker: one platform requires the submission for approval of every application (iPhone) and the other simply requires that you tell the user in a somewhat technical manner, what will happen when the app is installed (Android) but no one is confirming this.

The reality as of this writing is that neither platform has experienced massive exposure to malicious applications, but you can be assured that this will change in the future.  My recommendation is to just use the same rules as you should with your home computer; if you don’t need it, don’t install it and if you aren’t sure of the source, steer clear!


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