Android and iOS devices (smartphones, tablets, and TVs) have come a long way. Unfortunately, so has the technology that cybercriminals use. If your mobile security is a high priority, you’ll definitely be interested in a comparison between iOS and Android.
Here, we take a look at how these platforms measure up against each other in various aspects, and the increasingly indispensable role VPNs play in security for both platforms.
Security in the app marketplace
Android’s open Play Store is simultaneously its most celebrated blessing and its most derided curse. The selection of apps that Android users can choose from on Play far exceeds that of Apple’s App Store. However, dubious apps by hackers are far more likely to make it to Play than to iOS.
According to Android proponents, large strides have been made when it comes to curtailing the distribution of malware apps on the Play marketplace. The jury is still out on this claim. And it’s not easy to forget the market’s shocking failures in the past. Many times, top-ranked apps with downloads in the hundreds of thousands were found to contain malware.
Furthermore, Android users can allow into their devices apps from outside the Play Store by making a simple change in their settings. As a result, they can access an even wider selection of apps but are at the same time exposed to a much higher risk of malware infection.
On the other hand, Apple imposes heavy restrictions on its app marketplace. Every app is subjected to close scrutiny, so there is a drastically smaller selection of apps available. This also means that the likelihood of getting infected by malware is greatly reduced. Some users complain that Apple’s app marketplace is too constrained yet isn’t completely free of malware. However, there’s no doubt that it is much safer than Play Store.
As far as mobile devices are concerned, Android is the market leader. This, however, opens it up to unique vulnerabilities. The larger number of users is an incentive for hackers to develop malware in order to reap benefits from the vast pool of targets. This is also the case for the Windows PC operating system. Apple’s relatively small pool of users and significantly tighter security make it an unattractive target for hackers.
But there’s hope yet for Android users as Android’s open app marketplace and popularity means that there’s also a far wider variety of security apps available. So even if your Android device may be significantly less secure than an iOS device out of the box, a few security apps can make it as secure or even more secure than the iOS device.
iOS devices are well-known for their visually appealing designs, which are usually copied by other manufacturers. The inseparability of Apple’s OS and devices affords it far greater control over how well they function together. As far as device features are concerned, iOS users have fewer choices. However, the integrated design ensures that the devices are only minimally susceptible to being compromised.
On the other hand, Android is open-source and can, therefore, be installed on many devices. Depending on the manufacturer and model of the device, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage. Some devices seamlessly integrate with Android while others leave room for various security threats.
Furthermore, device-based security varies from one Android device to another. Some offer fingerprint and retinal scanners while others only offer patterns and passwords.
Patching vulnerabilities through updates
The primary way that Google and Apple keep their platforms safe is by sending periodic updates to the operating system. It’s easier for Apple to develop and distribute its updates because it has firm control of the ecosystem of its devices. This also means that iOS devices can continue receiving updates for longer, with official support usually being withdrawn after five or so years.
In contrast, Google serves a multitude of devices, meaning that it’s practically impossible to ensure they’re all updated at the same security level and for the same frequency and period. Furthermore, it increases the difficulty of distributing updates because they’re happening on numerous devices and manufacturers. As a result, Android OS updates are less frequent and the period in which devices are supported is far less.
Even as they compete, Android and iOS face a common problem, stubborn users who are unwilling to download updates. Still, Apple maintains an advantage in this respect because it controls everyone’s system, so it’s easy to pressure users.
Security of the operating system’s source code
Both Android and iOS use a variety of security features to maintain security for their users. The difference is that while Apple maintains a tight grip on its OS source code, Android has made a large portion of its OS open-source.
Android benefits from having a vast pool of developers because its source code is largely open-source, but that also makes it more susceptible to hackers who search for vulnerabilities in the source code. Google has, however, began to increasingly leverage this feature.
Besides running its own research on security, Google has increased the rewards it’s ready to offer to independent security researchers for identifying new security vulnerabilities. Mobile security researchers were unable to collect even one bounty for identifying Android hacks at a major 2017 mobile security event.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): the unifying factor in Android and iOS mobile security
Both operating systems have similar built-in security features, such as virtual sandboxes used to curtail the damage caused by malware apps. The drive encryption in iOS comes standard whereas the one in Android needs to be enabled by a user. Both operating systems support VPN encryption.
The benefits of VPN in terms of offering online security and privacy is not limited to PC because just as many, if not more, people use their iOS and Android devices to manage their sensitive data, such as making online transactions and transmitting sensitive information. Mobile devices are just as susceptible to hackers and using a VPN makes you a less attractive target for cybercrime.
So, which OS is superior?
Android has taken huge steps to clean up its act, and many hold the view that the security of these operating systems are more or less at par. However, we strongly believe that iOS is stronger in terms of security, at least in 2023.
Even though Android has worked hard to try and catch up, Apple always seems to be one step ahead in terms of security, even though Android easily upstages iOS in other respects.