Report: iPhone apps just as risky as Android’s

Most reports of mobile security threats center around Android viruses or other threats targeting Google’s smartphone and tablet platform. But that doesn’t mean Apple’s iOS is immune from attacks. 

The high number of Android security threats is due to several factors, most importantly the fact that it’s the most popular mobile platform worldwide, giving hackers a lot of incentive to attack it. In addition, Android’s more open nature makes it easier to sneak malware onto users’ devices, and fragmentation in the market means many Android devices run outdated software that doesn’t protect against the latest attacks.

However, that only means that attacks against iPhones and iPads are less likely — not that they’re impossible or will never occur.

Viruses in the App Store

Reports of malicious software finding its way onto the Google Play store are becoming a common occurrence.

But while it’s happened less frequently, malware has also at times been pulled from Apple’s more tightly controlled App Store.

It was discovered earlier this year that an iPhone game called Simply Find It contained a potential Trojan horse. It turned out the suspicious element discovered in the app wasn’t actually functional and was likely included in the code by accident, the incident did show the App Store’s security controls aren’t bullet-proof.

That malware scare followed an incident last year in which a functioning virus was actually found in the store. The app, which was called Find and Call and discovered in both the Apple and Android app stores, reportedly copied users’ address books and uploaded them to remote servers.

Invasions of privacy

In addition to malware, mobile users may also be threatened by legitimate apps that collect too much personal data. A study last year found that 25% of all Android apps present some kind of privacy risk.

iOS apps aren’t any better, according to recent study from Bitdefender, and in some cases, apps for Apple devices are actually more likely to be suspicious.

The security firm compared 314,000 Android apps and 207,000 iPhone apps. Among the results reported:

  • 45% of iOS apps track users’ location, compared to 34% of Android apps, and
  • 19% of iOS apps can access a device’s contacts, compare to 8% of Android apps.

Other privacy risks presented by apps for both platforms include leaking of a person’s phone number or email address, and failing to encrypt data transmitted by the app.

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