Android phones more vulnerable to hacking, viruses than Apple iPhone

  on January 12 2011 4:43 AM

Android phones and other mobile devices are more vulnerable to hackers than Apple iPhones due to Google's open-source policy in apps development, according to the chief of a security firm.

The basic difference between Google's Android software for mobile devices and Apple's iOS software is that Apple follows a stricter process of apps approvals while, Android, which is free, allows developers a free hand in making apps, Steve Chang, chairman of Trend Micro Inc, told Bloomberg in an interview.

“Android is open-source, which means the hacker can also understand the underlying architecture and source code,” Chang was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. Trend Micro is the world’s largest provider of security software for corporate servers, says the report.

Chang has said while it was almost impossible for certain viruses to intrude into iPhone this was not the case with Android devices. “Apple has a sandbox concept that isolates the platform, which prevents certain viruses that want to replicate themselves or decompose and recompose to avoid virus scanners,” he said.

Apple has put in place a mechanism under which requires every app to be approved before being sold in its app store.

It was reported two weeks ago that a malicious new piece of malware targeted at Android smartphones had appeared in China. Lookout, a mobile security blog, run by San Francisco-based Lookout Mobile Security, reported that the malware, codenamed Geinimi was able to compromise personal data on a user's phone and send it to remote servers.

The software, known as a Trojan, was uploaded through repackaged versions of Android apps distributed by third-party Android app market. In August Kaspersky Lab reported that a virus named TrojaN-SMS.Android OS.FakePlayer-A had surfaced on Android. The virus took the form of a media player and would fire SMSes to expensive phone numbers running the user's bill through the roof. The virus had only infected devices in Russia.

Though iOS is safer than its competitor, it's not totally immune to hacking threats, the expert said. Apple’s iOS isn’t fully immune to security threats and may be hit with so-called social-engineering attacks, which trick users into authorizing the download or installation of malicious software, Chang said, the report says.

Earlier McAfee Inc. had said it expected Apple’s iPhone, and other mobile devices could be the target of malware attacks in 2011. The company said the popularity of iPads and iPhones, combined with the lack of user understanding of proper security for these devices, will increase the risk for data and identity exposure, and will make Apple botnets and Trojans a common occurrence.

Google's Android has a 26 percent market share in the smartphone market while Apple's iOS is placed third with 17 percent share. Symbian, used in Nokia phones, leads the pack.

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