Apple’s Phil Schiller to World: Android Has LOTS of Malware

| Analysis

Apple Senior Vice President of Marketing, Phil Schiller, has a message for the world: Android suffers from lots and lots and lots of malware, thank you very much. Mr. Schiller tweeted a pointer to F-Secure's Mobile Threat Report for Q4 2012 with a helpful message, "Be safe out there."

Apple's marketing chief has plenty of reasons to be pleased at the report, including the fact that F-Secure found that the Android platform accounted for 79 percent of mobile malware, while iOS accounted for 0.7 percent.

The chart below shows the breakdown of malware threats in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Note the significant decease of threats to Symbian OS over the years—Nokia has discontinued development of the OS and moved to Windows Phone for its smartphones.

Threats to Windows Phone also decreased as that platform sank into obscurity. Threats to Android, on the other hand, have rocketed, claiming 79 percent of malware.

F-Secure Chart

Malware Threats by platform in 2010, 2011, and 2012
Source: F-Secure

"Android malware has been strengthening its position in the mobile threat scene," the company said in its report. "Every quarter, malware authors bring forth new threat families and variants to lure more victims and to update on the existing ones. In the fourth quarter alone, 96 new families and variants of Android threats were discovered, which almost doubles the number recorded in the previous quarter."

The chart below shows how quickly malware threats are increasing for Android, even while they plummet for the other platforms.

F-Secure Chart

Source: F-Secure

What about iOS? There will no doubt be some folks out there whose takeaway from this report will be that iOS malware threats increased ∞ percent from 2011 to 2012. Note that you can safely disregard them as unworthy of consideration.

As F-Secure noted, "Other platforms, i.e., Blackberry, iOS, windows Mobile, they may see some threats popping up once in a while. But most likely, the threats are intended for multiple platforms similar to the case of FinSpy4."

The reality is that this is a product of the open vs. closed nature of Android and iOS (to focus on just those two platforms). Android is an open OS with many OEM licensees and many app stores servicing the needs of its users (Google Play being the largest). It's largely a free-for-all, with both benefit and detriments.

Apple's iOS is a closed system open to developers are subject to strict limits on what they can and can not do. They must then submit their apps to one app store, the App Store, where their submissions are tested and curated by Apple. This, too, has benefits and detriments, as demonstrated by this report.

Choose your poison, and to channel Mr. Schiller, be safe out there.

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Comments

RonMacGuy

NIce article Bryan.  I can’t wait to see what the self-appointed master of everything (all things technical, global economics, patent law, stock analysis, corporate leadership, etc.) has to say about it (probably nothing).

RonMacGuy

Oh, and researchers find that you can bypass android encryption by freezing the phone (probably an issue for corporations and governments), Apple Maps outperforms google maps and Waze in a California driving test, and iOS is growing its share of the enterprise market while google’s android user base continues to contract.  Good stuff.

paikinho

Wow… pretty impressive really.

I wonder if this turn of events makes Linux in general more vulnerable now that there is a mass linux platform being exploited in such ways?

One of the beauties of Linux for me was that this sort of thing was a rarity.

geoduck

This is why I like the “Walled Garden”.
This is why I’ve never been tempted to Jailbreak.

Lee Dronick

“This is why I like the Walled Garden”.

It has its advantages

“This is why I’ve never been tempted to Jailbreak.”

Me neither, for a number of reasons.

RonMacGuy

“This is why I’ve never been tempted to Jailbreak.”

“Me neither, for a number of reasons.”

Ditto for me.  My iPhone and iPad do exactly what I need them to do, when I need them to do it, as they are.  I think hundreds of millions of people feel the same way, and are in a position in their lives (be it lack of interest or too busy) to not to want to screw around with jailbreaking, hacking, tweaking, or customizing their devices.  Why bother when they work so well as they are?  That’s the beauty of Apple.

kevinlane

I’d like to see a study of just how many ordinarily non-geeky people buy an Android device (largely because of lower price), love the device at first, and eventually go iOS because the end up hating their Android device due to performance issues. I have met many, many people who fit that description (including quite a few where I work), and I wonder if this malware issue is the blame.

Lee Dronick

“I’d like to see a study of just how many ordinarily non-geeky people buy an Android device (largely because of lower price), love the device at first, and eventually go iOS because the end up hating their Android device due to performance issues. I have met many, many people who fit that description (including quite a few where I work), and I wonder if this malware issue is the blame.”

I have a number of family and friends who refer to their Android phone as POS and they don’t mean point-of-sale. Of course many of them are not particularly technically adept and not too interested in learning or exploring. Also true enough a lot of iOS owners are using their devices to even the half potential, but they seem to have less trouble with the basics.

“You took that movie with your iPhone?”
Yes.
“The editing, added titles, and sound effects?”
Yes, all done on the iPhone.

RonMacGuy

The few people I know with android phones have them for a specific particular reason (3 big ones):

1. Big screen - don’t really do much with the extra real estate, but they just LOVE that big screen!!

2. Swype - Several friends of mine wants to move to iPhone, but does not want to give up Swype!!

3.  Sliding keyboard - Yes, a very old-fashioned friend has to have that keyboard, primarily to better enable texting and driving (“I feel the bumps on the keys and I can text better without looking”).  “But use Siri on an iPhone” I say.  “But then I can’t listen to my tunes nice and loud when I’m texting!!

I am very intrigued with Swype, but not enough to go that way (using Siri more and more for texting).  If Apple comes out with an iPhone option with ginormous screen then a big batch of iPhone wannabes will make the move.

I know no one (ABSOLUTELY no one) who loves android for the openness of the OS.  The main reason for the many people I know who went from android to iPhone is to get away from the fragmentation, the malware, and the “I loaded the Verizon update that they told me to load and it screwed up my phone” situation.

Mikuro

Android user here. While Android DOES have malware, the actual risk is similar to on Macs—be careful what you install, what you grant access, and you’ll be fine.

Android allows you to install apps from anywhere. This is a good thing, but it’s only really used be savvy users. Most users live in the Google Play ecosystem, just like iPhone users live in the App Store. A large percentage of Android malware is outside of this ecosystem.

What about the malware that does sneak into Google Play? This really is an issue, but they’re removed very quickly. I am wary of downloading new, unrated apps, and I shouldn’t need to be. I’d be less wary on an iPhone.

Some advice to Android users:

1. Stick to the Play Store whenever possible.
2. Avoid new, unrated apps.
3. For goodness’ sake, read the permissions your apps ask for before you install them. This is usually a dead giveaway. That notepad app doesn’t need access to SMS history.

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