Q. The Safest Mobile Device? A. Depends

Depends?!?  Well, isn't that the answer to a lot of things in this world?  Often our answer depends on the context of the question.  Sometimes the answer depends on who you ask since it may only be an opinion or a feeling.  Sometimes the answer is based on a survey, which is a moment in time, and might change a day later.  I write a lot about secure mobile access, especially to the enterprise, so I'm obviously interested in any stories about the risks of mobile devices.  There were a couple over the last few weeks that really caught my attention since they seemed to completely contradict each other. 

Earlier in the month, SC Magazine had a story titled, RSA 2013: iOS safer than Android due to open app model, patching delays which covered much of what many already feel - due to Apple's controlled ecosystem, the apps that are available are less of a risk to a user.  They made note of the McAfee Threats Report which says Android malware almost doubled from the 2nd to 3rd quarter of 2012.

Then just last week, also from SC Magazine, an article titled, Study finds iOS apps to be riskier than Android appeared.  What?  Wait, I thought they were safer.  Well, no apparently.  But before I go any further, I do need to mention that the author of both articles, Marcos Colon (@turbomarcos)does reference his first article and says, 'Security concerns surrounding the Android platform have always taken a back seat to that of iOS, but a new study challenges that notion,' so slack has been extended.  :-)  Anyway, according to an Appthority report, iOS apps pose a greater risk and has more privacy issues (to users) than Android.  Appthority's 'App Reputation Report' looked at 50 of the top free apps available on both platforms and investigated how their functionality affects user privacy.  They looked for “risky” app etiquette like sending data without encryption, sharing information with 3rd-parties, and gaining access to the users' calendars.  (Chart)

In this particular study, in almost all the cases, iOS gave access to the most info.  Of the 50 apps, all of them (100%) sent unencrypted data via iOS but 'only' 92% sent clear text on Android.  Tracking user location: 60% on iOS verses 42% on Android.  Sharing user data with third-parties: 60% on iOS verses 50% on Android.  When it comes to accessing the user's contacts, something we really do not like, 54% of iOS apps accessed the contact list compared to only 20% on Android.  One of biggest differences, according to the article, is that at least on Andriod users are presented with a list of content the app wants to hook and the user can decide - on iOS, permissions can be changed once the app is installed. 

To claim one device is either 'safer,' or 'riskier' is somewhat a moot point these days.  Any time you put your entire life on a device and then rely on that device to run your life, there is risk.  Any time we freely offer up private information, there is a risk.  Any time we rely on others to protect our privacy and provide security, there is a risk.  Any time we allow apps access to personal information, there is risk.  But like any potential vulnerability, individuals and organizations alike, need to understand the potential risk and determine if it something they can live with.  Security is risk management.

To top all this off and really what made me write this, was an @GuyKawasaki tweet titled Love Logo Swaps and among the many twists on brands, was this one:

And it all made sense.







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Published Mar 26, 2013
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