Unlike Android, iPhone users are totally safe from mobile malware

iphonelock

For years Macs have had the reputation of being less susceptible to malware than PCs. According to a new report, that also holds true when it comes to iPhones.

Research by Finnish security firm F-Secure looked at reports of mobile malware detected in the first quarter of 2014. Of the 277 new threats detected, they found that 275 were aimed at the Android platform — while only one targeted iPhones. (The other was for Nokia’s defunct Symbian software.)

For those keeping score at home, this means that 99% of mobile threats are aimed at Android. That number’s increasing, too. In the same three month period in 2013, just 91% of new mobile malware was aimed at Google’s mobile platform.

iPhones, for their part, benefit from Apple’s stricter security measures. The single instance of iOS malware detected by F-Secure was designed to target jailbroken iPhones — meaning that the majority of iPhone users are 100% safe from mobile malware.

How’s that for a statistic to throw out next time someone tries to make a point about the merits of Android vs. iOS?

  • hotrodcal

    I’d be careful with comments like that. Keyword is targeted. The community can just as quickly start targeting iOS. Really irresponsible and misleading article.

    • http://veryveryberry.wjrcoop.com/ Will

      Completely agree with you!! I feel bad for people who don’t know the difference and read articles like this – no wonder they feel untouchable.

      • San Diego Dave

        Again, the title is annoying and misleading, but within the article itself the author never claims that iPhones are impervious to attack. He’s just reporting stats. And these stats are a cause of some celebration. You can legitimately say to an Android user “my iPhone is safer” (as long as you always keep in mind the caveat “at least for now”). Yes this can change in the future, but as of the beginning of 2014, it is statistically safer to buy an iPhone than an Android.

      • hotrodcal

        Not disagreeing with the merit of your explanation but you keep coming to the defense of the author as if he has no responsibility to the reader to substantiate the article and title, regardless of the person that thought it up. I follow Cult of Mac and am in the mobile security space, every reader that relies of CofM to form their opinions will believe this to be true. The article does more harm than good. We all agree that iOS is more hardened and has less targets because Android is low hanging fruit but who would’ve thought Heartbleed was possible? Making absolute claims by any media outlet is irresponsible when it comes to security.

      • San Diego Dave

        Yeah, that’s fair.

      • JasonM7

        Agreed. No existing tech is hackproof. And Jailbreaking is defeating security mechanisms. Got it. So then where’s the torrent of malware? I have to think there is something more than lack of attention standing in the way of malware authors and iPhones. App Store security? General construct? Not sure. But you can’t say that it’s merely a ‘targeting’ issue unless you believe that malware authors have either never heard of the most popular smartphone in history, or it just hasn’t occurred to them to attack it. That seems pretty silly. I’m as cautious on an iPhone as any other device, but I do enjoy the lower malware profile and would probably stay on the Apple platform for that reason alone. It’s not hubris, it’s just statistics.

    • San Diego Dave

      Unfortunately 99% of news outlets use exaggerated titles like this to generate views, including otherwise “respectable” venues like The Atlantic. And this title probably came from some editor, not the author (authors rarely title their own articles). I agree that it’s annoying, but Cult of Mac generally does a good job breaking all Apple related news and rumors and the content of the articles themselves are usually informative. I just assume every title is mostly BS and move on, it’s much easier.

    • sevangrim

      i was just going to give this article kudos for saying “aimed”, instead of just saying “Apple is impervious!” like so many others do.
      in all honesty this article isnt wrong, it just knows its audience. And its not lying.

  • Mike Drips

    Malware can be targeted to ANY operating system. Obviously the author is entirely clueless when it comes to understanding programming. This seems to come from the same erroneous school of thought that Macs cannot be infected by a computer virus.

    • http://veryveryberry.wjrcoop.com/ Will

      Clueless is an excellent word! Only a complete fool will trod through digital life with an attitude of ‘they can’t touch me’. Besides that, it gives uninformed people a false sense of security, which is a huge lack of responsibility on the author’s part!!

    • San Diego Dave

      Like I mentioned above, authors rarely title their own articles, so you should blame some editor for the annoying and misleading title. Within the article itself, the author never actually claims that iPhones *cannot* be attacked by malware. He’s simply reporting a very encouraging statistic that 99% of current malware is aimed at Android.

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    But Android users like malware. It reaffirms their knowledge that Android is totally open and everyone is allowed to do their own thing.

    • San Diego Dave

      No joke, I have had more than one Android user tell me that this is a badge of pride for them, because it shows that Android is way more popular than Apple (so hackers just don’t waste their time with iOS or something).

    • jamaall

      I don’t know anyone on Android that has ever gotten malware on their phone.

  • Trix379

    ‘Totally safe’ – not wise! The number of threats to iOS may be lower, but there is no word on the potency for destruction that this evolving MalWare presents. May be fairer to say, ‘less vulnerable at present’

  • digitaldumdum

    Totally safe?? Last time I checked, 99% is not 100%. And I question the validity of the reporting agency itself.

    Nothing in life is 100% sure, except death. As much as I love the iPhone and the whole iUniverse created by Apple, I will never consider that I’m 100% safe on any device.

    • Scott Landis

      If you read past that line, you would know that the instance of malware that was aimed at iOS was aimed at Jailbroken iOS devices. What the article claims is that there are no known pieces of malware aimed at the standard iOS install.

      • digitaldumdum

        Thanks, Scott, but I •did• read the whole, short article.

        First, the headline doesn’t have one word about jailbroken hardware, so that’s hardly worth your mentioning in calling me out for my remark. Second, jailbroken device or not isn’t the issue. The recent vulnerability in jailbroken iPhones is most certainly not the only case of malware to affect iOS devices. And even •that• wasn’t my point. MY point was simply that nothing, nothing is 100% safe… not Android, not iOS, not crossing the street, flying in a plane or, apparently, posting a remark in an otherwise seemingly friendly forum.

      • grant_in_Atlanta

        The point of the article, and that of the research indicated that there are no known malware for locked unjailbroken iPhones. If you’re implying that it said that the iOS will always be 100% safe you are creating a straw man argument.

      • digitaldumdum

        It’s very simple. The headline reads thus: “Unlike Android, iPhone users are totally safe from mobile malware”

        By definition, “totally” = 100%. Q.E.D.

        The indisputable fact (though you may •try• to dispute it), is that no computer and no smart phone is totally safe from malware. As long as developers and manufacturers provide a way in—which they have to do in order for you to share, sync, upload, download and update firmware—there will also be a way for malware to get into your device, jailbroken or not.

        For the foreseeable future, at least a modicum of caution should be used with any smartphone—jailbroken or not—from any manufacturer.

      • AndroidAdvocate

        wpned

  • http://www.rawinfopages.com/tips/ Roland Waddilove

    Apple kit is safer, but not safe – there’s a difference. Five Apple security updates to patch various flaws in April alone and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read the rest… http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1222

  • Joshua D.

    What is this 2007? You would have to be blind, def and dumb to even get maleware on an android device.

  • Josh

    And that’s why it takes weeks to get a iOS app reviewed, where as on Android it takes about a couple hours to have your app ready to publish.
    That means an Android app can be updated to fix a bug found on the latest release within a day.

    It’s all pros and cons. Where’s iOS’s file explorer, or its ability to set default applications?

    Seriously. We just need to get a chart, put all this info on it, post it and BE DONE with this nonsensical targeting of opposing operating systems.

  • Just_Some_Nobody

    Security vulnerabilities are found in iOS often. To say that iPhone users are 100% safe is so far beyond naiive its pathetic. There’s a feedback loop of B.S. in this community that needs to stop. Otherwise people will start to do unsafe things.

    You can love your platform, but you shouldn’t do it at the risk of security.

    • grant_in_Atlanta

      The study cited that a locked unjailbroken iOS is currently safe from all known malware. How was the research naive and pathetic, because that’s who said it.

      • Just_Some_Nobody

        “Currently” and “known” being the operative words. That does not in any way, shape or form mean 100% safe.

      • grant_in_Atlanta

        Within the confines of the study iOS is 100% safe from malware. Currently and known aren’t just operative words, they are obviously implied. If someone wants to interpret this article and research to meaning 100% safe forever is reading the article and interpreting the research wrong.

      • Just_Some_Nobody

        But you KNOW most people will. That’s the problem with this article. It sets those people up for a very bad day some day.
        That’s why I said in my original comment that there is a feedback loop of B.S. in the iOS community where it continues to convince itself that iOS is perfect in every way.

  • grant_in_Atlanta

    A lot of folks here do not know how to correctly interpret the information in this article. The title appears misleading only because so many fail at this. The article indicates that according to a recent cited study that only 1% of mobile malware is iOS. That’s within the standard 3% margin of error- meaning that it’s currently plausible that iOS users are completely safe from malware. The key word ‘currently’ should be easily implied. Strawman up all you want that iPhones can or could be infected by malware in the future or how this could change tomorrow etc. but that’s outside the scope of this article. Anyone who has a device and reads this article, then thinks they can now let their guard down, probably doesn’t safeguard themselves properly to begin with.

  • AndroidAdvocate

    This also helps the lack of reason for malware makers to target Apple: http://www.cnet.com/news/apple-samsung-see-declining-shares-in-global-smartphone-market/

    Apple Market share just hit a new worldwide low: 15%. The eco-system is not worth the time of hackers to target in regards to the return.

    Also…where were these virus’ being found and distributed? Sideloaded via malware sites on the internet? Random foreign app stores not associated with Google? Were they pirated versions of paid apps found on the Play Store?

    One thing is certain…these malwares were not found on the Play store…the only legitimate place to get android apps.

    Let’s do a study on malware found in the play store and app store for 2014 if we want a legitimate comparison of malware infestation.

    In conclusion:

    Lazy study
    Lazy truth telling
    Lazy reporting

    Nice try apple fans, but we see right through this one!

    =]

  • Vetle andre

    Love that last paragraph Cx

  • jamaall

    So what if it’s targeted at Android? Android holds over 80% of phone operating systems, of course they’re going to target the largest OS. What’s funny is that you don’t mention the statistics on how many people actually get malware on Android, and I’ve never known someone to get a virus on their Android.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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