Back in June, we reported on Juniper Networks' findings that made Google's Android OS look not-so-secure. As a reminder, the firm discovered that between March 2012 and March 2013, mobile malware increased a staggering 614% overall, 92% of which calls Android its home. Given these numbers, it wouldn't be hard to jump to the conclusion that iOS has to be more secure than Android.
But not so, claims Google's chairman Eric Schmidt. When queried by a Gartner analyst at a symposium held yesterday about why Android is so insecure, Schmidt quipped, "Not secure? It's more secure than the iPhone."
On the desktop, Windows has long been the most insecure operating system (arguably) due to its wide usage. Would it be safe to say, then, that the reason Android is so insecure is because it dominates the mobile market? I'm not too sure. The thing that both Windows on the desktop and Android on mobile share is flexibility. You can screw up a Windows machine just like you can screw-up an Android device, thanks to that openness. It's a lot harder to pull such a thing off on iOS because the platform as a whole is so locked-down.
And that's the trade-off. Flexibility versus security - I tend to prefer the former, as I'd like to think I know how to use an operating system responsibly. Others might not find a problem with iOS' security policies though, and thus will feel safer using it.
Part of that flexibility on Android is that app stores are not limited to only Google, like the App Store is exclusive on iOS to Apple. That means less-than-legit stores can creep up, but it's not as though these stores are forced-upon you. They're out there, just like malware is out there on the desktop. Whether you stumble on it is up to you, usually based on how loosely you pay attention to what you're doing.
Unfortunately, the Gartner analyst didn't go into real detail with his question, so exactly how Android is insecure couldn't be surmised. In terms of being able to contract a piece of malware, though, I'd have a hard time claiming anything but the fact that Android is less secure than iOS. However, from a normal usage standpoint - not messing around in the shadier depths of the Web - the differences should be indistinguishable. Android has strong security policies as well - it just happens to give you the choice to bypass them if you wish.