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.
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy