With the sales of smartphones starting to exceed those of PCs, companies have started to look at these mobile devices as more than just fancy accessories that employees are given as “perks”.
Smartphones are becoming a critical part of daily corporate life. Indeed, recent studies show that the average user spends more time on mobile applications than he or she does surfing the Web.
However, before organisations start looking at smartphones as the de facto standard for their businesses and start replacing their laptops and PCs, their security concerns must be addressed. This is the primary hurdle facing most companies today, as corporate data stored on a smartphone is seen as more vulnerable than that stored on a laptop or PC.
Here, we take a look at the major mobile operating systems in the market and how their security posture stacks up when it comes to protect the valuable data stored on them.
Apple: One smartphone to rule them all
Apple‘s decision to ditch the tried-and-tested Google Maps application did not go down well with the majority of its users and has tarnished its once untouchable reputation.
However, love them or hate them, nobody can deny Apple’s strong position in mobile OS security. A mobile OS is only as secure as its surrounding app eco-system and Apple’s strict vetting rules and quality control makes it very hard for malicious apps to slip through the cracks and infect its customers’ beloved iPhones. Additionally, Apple’s sandboxing architecture limits the damage that malicious apps can do to the memory.
Apple has also focused on making the iPhone more corporate friendly in recent years, allowing features like remote wiping and integration with Microsoft Exchange, in order to jump onto the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) bandwagon.
However, organisations are accustomed to the complete control which BlackBerry gives to IT departments, and may find it jarring that users’ consent has to be taken even for minute actions.
Despite this, Apple’s efforts seem to have paid off, as indicated by a recent study by Decisive Analytics, showing that most IT professionals now place the iOS ahead of the previous corporate favourite – BlackBerry – when it comes to security and manageability. While BlackBerry remains the corporate device of choice, Apple is now close behind and may overtake its rival soon.
BlackBerry: Down but not out
BlackBerry and RIM may have been left trailing in the dust as far as market share goes, but it is undoubtedly the winner when it comes to secure Mobile OS; and remains the choice of organisations worldwide.
Although most IT professionals have started ranking iOS above RIM’s BlackBerry, the same study shows that it still holds the top spot among organisations worldwide. It is RIM’s dedication to security and the multitudes of options available in its Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) that gives it the edge over Apple and Google.
The BES allows companies to fine-tune hundreds of security options till they reach that fine balance between security and usability which most organisations aspire to.
Although Google has meteorically risen in the market with its Android Mobile OS, it continues to suffer consistent security woes, with regular news of data breaches and malware hitting Android-powered smartphones.
Google’s developer-friendly policies and lax monitoring may have paid off in the short-term, but the littering of Google marketplace by malicious apps has definitely become a huge problem. Organisations are wary of adopting its mobile OS for fear of falling prey to cyber-criminals who may take advantage of any loopholes in the Android OS.
Android’s “all-or-nothing” model with regards to its app permissions is also something that has drawn criticism from industry veterans.
The Google Play marketplace remains cluttered with malicious apps which are capable of stealing data, activating microphones, snooping on text messages, the list goes on, despite the presence of Google’s bouncer which kicks unfriendly apps out of the store.
Windows Phone: The new kid on the block
Although it is too soon to give a decisive opinion on Windows Phone’s security, it seems as if Microsoft has learned from its previous experience of countless malware attacks on the Windows desktop platform, and has worked to improve its security features.