Security Advisor

Apple on Android Malware: 'Be Safe Out There'

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, couldn't help taking a jab at Android over the release of a new F-Secure Labs report that found that 79 percent of all mobile malware in 2012 were found on Google's mobile platform.      

Schiller's response? "Be safe out there."

While context is lacking from a simple four-word tweet, it is easy to infer that Schiller would like to point out that Apple's No. 1 competitor in the mobile market is much more vulnerable to malware than its line of iPhones and iPads.

It's easy to be proud of the fact that Apple only garnered .7 percent of malware for the year. However, due to the closed nature of the platform and the stringent requirements Apple sets forth for submissions in its app store, shouldn't any number that is higher than 0 percent be unacceptable?

It's much easier for me to understand that 79 percent of malware sidesteps Apple to end up on Android devices -- the open nature present on Google's platform is a welcome mat for attackers, and freedom (I'm not referring to Google's privacy policies here) does come with its downside.

And you know what else makes you a juicy target for hackers? Being the king of the hill. "The rise of Android malware can be largely attributed to the operating system's increasing foothold in the mobile market," read F-Secure Labs' report. "Android's market share has risen to 68.8 percent in 2012, compared to 49.2 percent in 2011."

Apple knows that the rise of popularity also comes with the rise of risk. Remember when Macs used to be the poster child for safe computing? If you want viruses, go with a Microsoft PC. If you want to be bug-free, go with a Mac.

That was until Apple's computers started experiencing market share growth. That got the attention of attackers. McAfee's second quarter security threat report for 2012 attested to the growth of malware on Macs, and attributed it to the platform's rising market share.

Personally, when it comes to mobile platforms, I do enjoy the freedom Android gives me in customizing and app selection compared to when I had an iOS device. And I have no misconceptions that Google Play's app store is a mixed-bag of malware and legitimate applications.

So I use the same caution when downloading something to my phone or tablet that I do when downloading something to my PC: I research the legitimacy of what I'm downloading and once downloaded, I make sure to scan it with my antivirus software. And so far, I've avoided falling into the 79 percent of malware on the platform.

In other words, I'm being safe out there.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Mar 19, 2013 marvinn1170

I think his point is that as a highly controlled market 0.7% malware penetration is rather high. (According to http://148apps.biz/app-store-metrics/ as of 9/2012 there were 821k+ apps downloadable from the App Store. 0.7% would mean over 5700 apps currently 'live' are malware infected.) Regardless of whether you use iOS or Android, if you are careful you should be able to achieve 0% on at least the devices you have control over. In the end it really is up to the end user to be 'safe'.

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 Bayard

Mr. Paoli forgets that iOS was the previous king of the smartphone hill and had no malware problems comparable to Android. Yes, 0% malware should be the goal, but for every platform, not just Apple. The flip side of Mr. Paoli's denouement is that Apple is closer than any other vendor to being malware-free, and that would seem to vindicate Apple's closely-governed ecosystem. It sets the standard for everyone else.

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