For decades, Apple products have maintained a reputation for lower rates of malware infection than their non-Apple counterparts. PCs appear to have radically higher numbers of infections than Mac computers, and phones using Android operating systems seem to succumb to malware much more readily than iPhones. Yet, at the dawn of the year 2024, it is high time that the assumptions about the invulnerability of Apple goods be investigated properly.
More people are investing in Apple products than ever before, and as mobile traffic grows exponentially, Android users deserve to know whether they are using an inferior and radically more insecure tool to browse the web, make e-commerce purchases, play digital games, and more. Here is the truth about the security of Android and iOS in 2024.
One of the most popular pieces of evidence Apple users employs to demonstrate the weaker security of Android devices is the fact that there is vastly more malware developed and deployed to attack Android users. Unfortunately, this is true; researchers find again and again millions more instances of malware affecting Android systems than iOS counterparts. However, the primary reason for this might not be as damning as iOS users believe.
The main reason that so many cyber attackers prefer to build and execute malware for Android devices is simply that there are many more Android users than iOS users. Around the world, there are over 1.2 billion iPhone users — but there are more than double that amount, roughly 2.5 billion, Android users. Every worker wants their effort to have the most possible impact, and the same goes for cybercriminals, who are more likely to see higher rates of infection with malware designed for Android devices.
It is worth noting that Android is slightly easier to exploit than iOS — because Android offers open access to its source code to help developers create useful applications. The number of apps available to Android users is much higher than the number of apps that can run on Apple devices, and many beginner app developers find it easier to experiment with Android code before trying to port their idea into iOS. Many Android users see the open nature of the operating system as a strength; still, the closed development operating system that Apple maintains helps iOS keep its users somewhat safer from attack. This is likely why iOS’s reputation for security remains strong to this day.
The number of iPhone users in the world is consistently increasing, and the relative wealth of iPhone users often encourages cyber attackers to put more effort into malware designed for Apple devices. There could come a day in the near future when the amount of malware online is roughly equivalent for both Android and iOS — but unfortunately, that day is not today. Android users do in fact need to put more effort into being secure than users of iOS.
Android users are not doomed to suffer from unending malware infections. Though cyber attackers are eager to infiltrate Android devices and get away with valuable data, Android users can thwart them with the right tools and techniques.
To start, all Android users need to equip their mobile devices with adequate mobile security solutions. Antivirus applications for Android from reputable cybersecurity firms will operate in the background of the mobile device, scanning for signs of malicious code and quarantining known malware before it can cause harm. While antivirus tools should not be a user’s only method of keeping their mobile device and data safe, they are essential for identifying and eliminating malware quickly.
As important as mobile cybersecurity solutions is an Android user’s behavior. Irresponsible mobile activity is likely to expose mobile users to a more significant amount of mobile malware, so it is more important than ever that users learn and practice cyber hygiene. Cyber hygiene is a set of habits an individual maintains that tend to keep their devices safer from attack. Like regular hygiene, cyber hygiene should be used every day, every time an individual uses a device, to prevent that device from succumbing to some kind of digital infection. Some examples of cyber hygienic practices for mobile device users include:
Avoiding risky connections. A device is at greater risk for attack when it is connected to an insecure network. Public Wi-Fi networks can be host to any number of cyberattackers, so Android users should only connect to public Wi-Fi using a VPN or some other security tool that protects their connection. Additionally, users should be careful to avoid chargers and other cables that may come from an untrustworthy source.
Using a strong PIN or password to limit access. A PIN should not be easy for anyone to guess. Users should avoid common PINs, as one or two numbers are repeated, and they should avoid using birth dates or other easily discovered number sequences. Locking access to a mobile device is a small but meaningful way to thwart attacks of opportunity.
Downloading apps from approved stores. There are many places across the web where users can find third-party and bootleg apps designed for mobile devices, but these apps pose a significant amount of risk to device security. App stores maintained by Google rigorously test available apps to ensure that they are free of malware and issues.
Disabling features when not in use. Mobile devices do not need to be shut down like laptop or desktop computers, but users should disable certain types of connections when they are not necessary. For example, users might turn off Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth connections while in public, these features make it easier for hackers to identify and attack devices successfully. Users might also delete apps they no longer use to reduce the potential of software vulnerabilities on their devices.
Allowing automatic app updates. As software ages, it tends to develop vulnerabilities that savvy cyberattackers will exploit to access users’ devices and data. Most software developers release regular updates to close potential vulnerabilities, and when users allow apps to update automatically, they receive the benefits of those updates immediately without any decrease in security. Additionally, the Android OS occasionally needs to update, and the sooner users permit that update to download and install, the better.
Recognizing signs of phishing. Not all cyber attackers are hacking experts; many know only the basics of programming and instead gain access to users’ accounts by tricking users into divulging sensitive information. Most phishing scams are easy to detect, thanks to poor spelling or grammar, but the user should also avoid inputting data like login credentials, social security numbers, or contact information on websites they did not independently navigate to.
Comparing the security of Android and iOS is like comparing apples to oranges. Both are popular mobile operating systems — just as both apples and oranges are fruits — but there are vastly different circumstances affecting the security of each OS. In truth, both Android and iOS users need to invest in cybersecurity solutions and practice strong cyber hygiene while using their mobile devices. Rates of mobile malware are increasing across the board, and every user needs to know how to keep their mobile data safe.