Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

6/30/2010
04:26 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Which Platform Is Safer: Android, Blackberry, or iPhone?

With the hand-held platform battle over market share heating up, more people are wondering just which platforms may be safer from attackers and snoops.

With the hand-held platform battle over market share heating up, more people are wondering just which platforms may be safer from attackers and snoops.Gartner analyst John Pescatore posed the question in his blog last Friday, likening some smart phone platforms to the PCs open platform and others to the more locked-down mainframe. Pescatore noted that, so far, the smart phones with more closed eco-systems are the most popular. Here's what he had to say:

• Blackberry - a very tightly controlled platform, very limited ability for users to create, install and share applications. Great from a security perspective, but in reality the Blackberry gained market share because it was the first portable email+phone device and not really because of the smartphone/application side of things.

• Windows Mobile - as you would expect, Microsoft took the approach of making a tiny, little handheld PC with a cellphone buried inside. Lots more freedom for users to install and share applications, but not all that successful in the marketplace.

• iPhone - the iPhone really is a little tiny mainframe. It is a closed platform, Apple decides what applications get on the whitelist (the App Store) but it is a really, really big whitelist - users don't notice the boundaries. It is like when you put a goldfish in a bathtub - "I'm free!!" shouts the goldfish. Life can be pretty good, security-wise, if you can keep all your users in a bathtub.

As Pescatore noted, the Droid OS is designed to closely resemble the PC and its open ability to run lots of applications not vetted by a central authority. That fact could quite possibly open the phone to the same types of malware that have plagued PCs for generations now. And if an analysis from mobile security firm SMobile Systems, released last week, of more than 48,000 applications available on the Android is correct: that is exactly what could happen:

• 20 percent of applications in the Android market grant a third party application access to private or sensitive information that an attacker could use for malicious purposes, such as Identity Theft, mobile banking fraud and corporate espionage; 5 percent of applications have the ability to place a call to any number, without requiring user intervention;

• 2 percent of market submissions can allow an application to send unknown premium SMS messages without user intervention.

That data certainly doesn't look good for Android. And Google undoubtedly needs to take additional steps to limit the amount of access applications have to other areas of the platform, and what can be done without user intervention.

But this doesn't mean other platforms such as iPhone and Blackberry are safe, either.

In February a senior security researcher for Veracode demonstrated how using the RIM API (and without leveraging any software exploits or Blackberry vulnerabilities) was able to snoop nearly at-will on the device. Then, when it comes to the iPhone, developer Nicolas Seriot in December released a proof-of-concept application, SpyPhone, that demonstrated how the public iPhone API can be used to grab data from other applications, such as the keyboard cache or address book.

The safe assumption is that the phone platform you use isn't less, or more, secure than any others: and take caution on the Web sites you visit and the applications you install.

For my security and technology observations throughout the day, find me on Twitter.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
More SolarWinds Attack Details Emerge
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  1/12/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-20619
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
Cross-site scripting vulnerability in GROWI (v4.2 Series) versions prior to v4.2.3 allows remote attackers to inject an arbitrary script via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-29450
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-19
Affected versions of Atlassian Confluence Server and Data Center allow remote attackers to impact the application's availability via a Denial of Service (DoS) vulnerability in the avatar upload feature. The affected versions are before version 7.2.0.
CVE-2020-36192
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
An issue was discovered in the Source Integration plugin before 2.4.1 for MantisBT. An attacker can gain access to the Summary field of private Issues (either marked as Private, or part of a private Project), if they are attached to an existing Changeset. The information is visible on the view.php p...
CVE-2020-36193
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
Tar.php in Archive_Tar through 1.4.11 allows write operations with Directory Traversal due to inadequate checking of symbolic links, a related issue to CVE-2020-28948.
CVE-2020-7343
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
Missing Authorization vulnerability in McAfee Agent (MA) for Windows prior to 5.7.1 allows local users to block McAfee product updates by manipulating a directory used by MA for temporary files. The product would continue to function with out-of-date detection files.