iPhone Security: Priceless
Mar 11, 2011 5:00 AM PT
The Android operating system continues to grow in popularity and the options it offers also have grown tremendously. Diversity can be a wonderful thing, but it may be coming at a cost in the form of a security risk. That's right -- everything you do on your phone is risky if you don't play by the rules.
So what are the rules? The rules are that you sign up for and stick to an expensive carrier plan and use the phone's features and approved apps as they were designed to be used. Sideloading, or transferring files directly from your computer to your Android phone, puts the phone and everything you do on it at risk.
My intention is not to be scaremongering, because the possibilities of getting hit are slim. Looking at the numbers, though, it's easy to see how things could get dicey fast.
I've heard (though I can't verify this) that more than 25 percent of smartphone users make purchases with credit cards. Assuming for the sake of argument that it's true, the dangers are obvious.
In fact, this threat level may not have a rival -- not even considering some of the old Windows security risks. This goes further than clicking on the wrong download and getting a bug; this means putting your social and financial resources at risk.
But that's not all. If you own a company -- or work for a company -- and place important company information on your phone, you've placed the company at risk as well.
This is where Apple gets a ton of credit. As I noted in a previous column, Apple does not spread itself thin in terms of product options, and this makes it easier to repair its hardware.
Similarly, the software is integrated for the existing hardware, so functionality is very good. In fact, Apple scores a bit of a trifecta when you take into account its management of security issues.
To upload on the iPhone from the computer, iTunes is needed. It is not as easy as plugging in a USB to any old computer, and grabbing any folder and file. With Android, there is no screening process, as anything goes.
It is a numbers game, and many individuals and companies will get hit at some point, although the overall severity of the problem is yet to unfold.
Run for the Hills?
If you own a large company, this is something that you should take seriously. The phone service rep and IT guys should give a you full-blown overview of what not to do and how to avoid trouble.
"The latest Trojan horse for Google's Android operating system has been seen posing in Chinese third-party app stores as legitimate programs such as Wallpaper apps," the NakedSecurity blog recently warned.
The official Android Market, run by Google, does not appear to be carrying these malicious apps -- but if you go "off road" and choose to install software on your smartphone from elsewhere on the Net, then you could be putting your device at risk.
The vast majority of Android users probably have little to fear. But those who do install applications from unknown sources do need to recognize that they might be putting their smartphone, data and potentially their finances in danger.
Perhaps I've been hanging out with my conservative friend and listening to Glenn Beck too much, but you should be afraid -- BE VERY AFRAID. The Android OS was created by Google, Google is run by China, and search rankings are nothing more than mass propaganda (also something I heard but can't verify).
Subtraction by Addition
There is no motivation for phone companies to tone down on their product supply and "open source" approaches. It is easier for a company to create a new product than to enhance a current one. Regulations and paper shuffling are responsible for this.
Google has put out a large amount of propaganda emphasizing the fact that Android is "open," and the iPhone is "closed."
If options are your thing, then Android may be the way to go. Everyone is different, and there is no point in getting self-righteous in terms of what phone you use. Just remember, if you use an Android, don't make modifications off the grid unless you are sure it's worth it.