Eugene Kaspersky, the Chief Executive Officer of Kaspersky, the Internet security company, has an unusual take on the mobile security threat. He has been speaking at a conference where he stated that Windows Phone is a safer mobile platform compared with Android and iOS. He is quoted as saying that the iPhone and iOS represents the biggest threat: “Criminals are obsessed with iOS and there are many, many vulnerabilities.” However, Eugene also concedes that the situation is unlikely for the iPhone because it is extremely difficult to write malware for the iOS platform as it is a closed system. However, a worst-case scenario could see millions of infected iPhones set upon the world and because Apple’s system is closed-shop, there are no third party anti-virus applications available (Apple does not permit these to be placed in the App Store). However, every operating system, every computer has a vulnerability and this is why the iPhone is a potential security risk.
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In regards to Android, Eugene’s comments point to a rather different environment. Here, Android is a much more open system where it’s possible to imagine “millions of brutal attacks,” however because the platform is open, developers have been able to program anti-malware applications, which would provide the platform with an immediate level of protection. However, his comments are more interesting when it comes to Windows Phone, which he considers to be “so far very clean.” Microsoft’s platform is closer to the Apple level of security and “walled garden” compared with Google’s Android operating system. However, given the user numbers of Apple’s iOS, both Google and non-Google Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, it is perhaps easy to see why Windows Phone may be considered a lesser risk: there are far fewer Windows Phone customers out there as the platform has much lower market penetration compared with Android and iOS.
One of the reasons why our mobile devices are at risk is because many people use their mobile cell ‘phone for all manner of tasks, including mobile banking through to managing our social networks and email accounts. Criminals see anywhere that a password is used as being a potential weakness, especially on a smartphone, which may have no lock code or a weak one at that. If malware were able to obtain a password, this could allow the user’s email account to be hacked, which then opens up a route to gain access to all manner of other accounts and services. Over the last eighteen months we have seen a large number of security related stories and many of these are a result of the end user losing control over his or her email account. However, Kaspersky has an answer to the issue of mobile device security. “You know how to protect your computers and devices – disconnect them from the internet!” The source website also pointed out that the security expert does not own a smartphone but instead uses an old Sony Ericsson feature ‘phone for mobile communications. For many of us, disconnecting our smartphone might seem like an extreme solution to an unlikely problem, but there are definite high-risk activities to do on a smartphone over an open, unsecured or public wireless network, for example.