In the era of the personal computer, Apple’s machines were often
less vulnerable to security threats than the alternatives. That may
also be the case with the rise of smartphones.
Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices has had an
almost sixfold increase in threats such as spyware and viruses
since July, according to Juniper Networks. That may increase the
perception that Apple devices are safer than smartphones and
tablets that run on Android, Juniper said.
“You’re not going to see nearly the number of infections on
Apple as you see on Android,” said Dan Hoffman, who leads a team
tracking mobile threats for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper, the
second-largest maker of networking equipment.
Most of the growth in Android threats comes from applications,
or apps, available from third-party sites not associated with
Google’s Android Market, according to data Juniper collected. Apple
doesn’t face the same issue because iPhone and iPad owners can get
applications only from Apple’s App Store, which is controlled by
“The open nature of the Android system makes it more susceptible
to attack,” Hoffman said in an interview. “If it’s on a third-party
site, Google can’t remove it.”
Making malware is easier with Android software because the
applications aren’t checked, the source code is open and the apps
can be sold on external sites, Hoffman said. Android is free and
available for download by anyone, while Apple screens each
application added to its store. With Android growing faster than
Apple’s system, it appeals to hackers seeking greater reach, he
said. Of the thousands of infected Android apps, 55 percent contain
spyware, which can gather data from phone use.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., and Apple, based in
Cupertino, are vying for control of a smartphone market as
computing evolves from desktop machines to mobile devices. While
Apple has championed a closed system in which it makes its own
hardware and doesn’t share its operating system, Google has opted
for an open approach, allowing companies such as Samsung
Electronics and Motorola Mobility Holdings to use Android in phones
and tablets for free.
The wide availability of apps has helped the Silicon Valley
rivals outpace traditional handset makers such as Nokia and
Research In Motion. Android devices had 45 percent of the U.S.
smartphone market in the quarter ended in September, up from 40
percent three months earlier, according to research firm ComScore
Inc. Apple kept its 27 percent share.
Hoffman said the 472 percent jump in application viruses since
July stems from Android users’ ability to buy apps online at
third-party sites like mmoovv.com and samsunggalaxy-s.ru that can
contain malicious applications alongside legitimate ones.
Android users may be drawn to the sites to find cheaper versions
of programs, or because the Android Market isn’t available in some
places, such as China. On a third-party site, it’s possible to find
an infected “Angry Birds” game uploaded right next to a legitimate
one, said Danielle Hamel, a Juniper spokeswoman.
Spyware threats are increasingly coming from pirated versions of
popular apps, Hoffman said. While the apps are designed to look and
work like something legitimate already on the market, they contain
viruses that can grab users’ private data or communicate with other
parts of the phone.
Randall Sarafa, a Google spokesman, said the company had no
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