Smartphones are big business, prompting fierce competition between providers. One major concern for consumers is whether a smartphone will keep their private data safe from malicious programs. To date, however, little independent research has been undertaken to compare security across different platforms.
Now, Jin Han and co-workers at the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research and Singapore Management University have conducted the first systematic comparison of the two biggest operating systems in mobile software1 — Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The two companies take markedly different approaches to security.
Apple famously maintains complete control over iOS security, promising that all applications are thoroughly screened before release and security patches are smoothly applied across all their phones. However, malicious software has appeared in the iTunes store.
Android, in contrast, displays everything that an application will need to access so that users can decide themselves whether to go ahead with an installation. Some critics argue that handing such control to unqualified users could present a security risk in itself.
To compare these two security models, Han and co-workers identified 1,300 popular applications that work identically on both iOS and Android. These applications, such as Facebook, often access code libraries on smartphones called security-sensitive application programing interfaces (SS-APIs), which provide private user data or grant control over devices such as the camera.
“We needed to establish a fair baseline for the security comparison between Android and iOS,” says Han. “We achieved this goal by examining the SS-API usage of cross-platform applications.”
The researchers found that 73% of iOS applications, especially advertising and analytical code, consistently accessed more SS-APIs than their counterparts on Android. Additionally, the SS-APIs invoked by iOS tended to be those providing access to sensitive resources such as user contacts.
The results imply that by allowing users to control permissions, Android may be better at preventing stealthy applications from getting hold of private information. Notably, Android also intentionally avoids using SS-APIs if non-security-sensitive APIs can be used to achieve the same functions.
To avoid jumping to conclusions about the risk to Apple users from the iOS process, Han urges caution in interpreting the results. “Mobile platforms are constantly evolving,” he says. “Our experiments were mainly conducted on iOS 5, but iOS 6 has enhanced its privacy protection so that users will be notified when an app is trying to access their contacts, calendar, photos or reminders. This may encourage developers to modify their apps so that they access less private data.”
The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute for Infocomm Research
Han, J., Yan, Q., Gao, D., Zhou, J. & Deng, R. Comparing mobile privacy protection through cross-platform applications. The 20th Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium, 26 February 2013.
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy