Protecting your smartphone isn’t as simple as finding a durable case and buying a protection plan. Malware has seeped into smartphone software, making the default security settings, in most instances, a relatively unsafe operating environment. For the most part, if you imagine any type of breach that can happen on a PC, the same type of thing can happen on a smartphone. Stolen identities, access to personal information, viruses, and spyware are all just as prevalent in the smartphone universe as they are with computers.
Similar to a PC, attack prevention is just as important as repairing your smartphone, should a security breach take place. The more precaution you take, the less likely you are to encounter malware or a virus on your smartphone.
Operating System Weaknesses
If you think of your smartphone as a miniature computer, then it is easy to understand why you would need to protect it against malicious attacks. Although the operating platforms are made to withstand security breaches, there are weaknesses, which have allowed for malware attacks. Before you can ascertain how to protect your phone, it is important to understand if your smartphone has an identified weakness. Knowing which operating systems may be more vulnerable could sway your decision, if you are considering purchasing a new smartphone.
This operating system has the largest number of market share worldwide. Google decentralized the distribution of the Android operating platform, making it available to a variety of phone manufacturers. The decentralization allowed for more carriers to offer Android smartphones in a variety of price ranges. Because the phone manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung, and Motorola, have developed a range of Android phones, there is fragmentation of the operating system, making it difficult for developers to issue updates that are compatible with a number of devices.
Android is the most popular smartphone operating system, and it is an open operating platform; therefore, it is easier for malware to be developed and easily distributed. In other words, source code can be easily obtained for free, which is a great advantage to both developers and hackers. Just because an app is installed from the open Android Market does not mean that it is has passed rigorous security checks or that its origins are closely monitored. Even when apps have official logos of the companies that they supposedly represent, users must still be cautious as to the legitimacy of the app, particularly when personal information is required.
Google does not monitor apps or perform any kind of security checks, leaving the security up to developers and manufacturers. The majority of the malware released into the Android Market was spyware, meaning that hackers have the ability to spy on users and obtain private information with malicious intent.
Apple has placed a number of limitations on the iPhone to eliminate replication and security breaches on its operating system, iOS. However, users can choose to "jailbreak" their iPhone to circumnavigate the security issues. Jailbreaking simply allows users root access to install any and all apps or themes, rather than being limited to what is only available in the iTunes App Store from Apple. If an iPhone is jailbroken and left in a default unsecured state, access to the phone via worms, viruses, and other malware is possible. Additionally, there have been incidents of viruses attacking security breaches in older operating systems of past iPhone models that cannot upgrade to an updated iOS.
BlackBerry: Blackberry OS
The BlackBerry OS is deemed the safest operating platform, with few security breaches or instances of malware, which makes it very appealing for those who conduct business on their smartphones. The BlackBerry OS, much like the iOS, is tightly controlled by the company, which in Blackberry’s case, is RIM (Research in Motion), the developer of the BlackBerry. This includes the applications submitted to Blackberry App World. Source code, however, is not reviewed by RIM; therefore, it is impossible to monitor questionable application operation.
Microsoft: Windows 7
Much like BlackBerry and Apple, a Windows phone operating system is proprietary to Microsoft. Developers are restricted to access of the programming code, and are only able to use the application programming interfaces. Malware, in turn, has been minimal, partially because Windows phones have less of a market share; therefore, there is little effect a virus would have on Windows phones users.
Other Operating Systems
Additional contenders in the smartphone market include Meego (Linux Foundation), Samsung’s Bada, Symbian (previously promoted by Nokia), and WebOS (formerly from HP). However, these smartphone operating platforms currently have very little market share and have yet to present any larger security threats than those presented by the more popular smartphone operating platforms.