How do Apple, Windows, Android and BlackBerry fare against hacking? Lets take a look
While the technology world is waiting with bated breath for the final decision in the ongoing battle between the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and Apple over a government request for a backdoor to the iPhone used by San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, it exposes the issue of security that has for long been the selling point in smartphones that dates back to the long-encrypted BlackBerry.
“The tech industry tries to build the most secure products possible,” says Harvey Anderson, chief legal officer at computer security company AVG Technologies.
On the market today, there is no genuine way for consumers to keep themselves secure against the privacy concerns raised by likely government-instructed backdoors in mainstream phones.
That’s the reason why some people believe that the Apple-FBI fight may give tech companies a long-term motivation to build products that are safe which cannot be hacked. “If Apple had done it right, and no backdoor was available (to iPhone 5c), this would not be an issue,” Anderson said.
Jonathan Zittrain, an Internet law professor at Harvard Law School says that the Farook case in the end “compels Apple to build a next-generation, ultra-secure phone”.
How secure is my phone compared with the other brands available – will be the question on any ordinary users’ mind who are concerned about privacy until such new, super-secure phones are built.
Here’s is a summary:
Google’s Android operating system :
According to comScore MobiLens, phones that use the Android operating system with 53% of market share are the most popular worldwide and in the United States.
These Android phones come in many favors. Google made the decision to give away its software when it first launched Android in 2007, and not tie it to any one device or carrier. That means that today there are exactly dozens of marginally different types of the Android operating system running on phones built by multiple companies and using the cell networks of dozens of companies.
Four out of five smartphones are powered by Android worldwide, due to the openness that makes Androids cheaper and popular. However, it also means that based on what flavor of the operating system is being used, such as what the hardware is and which carrier the phone runs on, the phones’ security can vary enormously.
The latest version of Android, Marshmallow, that was released last October is used on new phones, the phone is fully encrypted on all devices that support a secure lock screen. However, older phones that were updated to Marshmallow may not be fully encrypted as they may not meet the necessary requirements.
Though stronger versions of encryption are possible, Android Marshmallow uses AES 128-bit encryption as the default. Generally used in phones, Advanced Encryption System is a standard first established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. The bigger the bit number, the more tougher it is to break the key. However, anything from 128-bit on up is regarded as reasonable, as the key length is normally not the weakest link in a phone’s security.
The open app system of Android is considered by many as the main security threat to Android phones. While Apple’s apps must all be examined by the company to run on its phones, Google allows users to run unapproved apps as well. An outsider can be allowed access to the phone, if the apps that are not purchased from Google’s own app store can contain malicious code.
Samsung’s Knox (most probably after the super-safe Fort Knox) is an example of a feature built around security. Knox that was first announced in 2014 works only with selected Samsung phones, as it integrates directly with the hardware.
Apple is mostly considered as having the most secure mainstream phones on the market today, a place once held by BlackBerry. Since the release of iOS 8 in 2014, all Apple phones have been fully encrypted. The system uses an AES 256-bit key from iOS 9 forward.
The company’s rigorous inspection process and firm sandboxing system that keeps apps from accessing other apps keep Apple phones protected from malicious apps.
At present, Apple has about 41% of U.S. smartphone market share.
Microsoft’s Windows mobile operating system
The first version of Microsoft’s mobile platform was the Windows 8.1 operating system that supported full-device encryption. However, it comes disabled by default and the phone’s administrator must enable it.
Windows 10 Mobile also support encryption, which must be turned on by the customer.
Currently, Windows handsets are not believed to be very susceptible to app-based attacks, partly as the platform has a somewhat small app library that is basically believed to be relatively free of malware.
BlackBerry Inc.’s BlackBerry OS:
For those wanting strong security, the BlackBerry was the device of choice for years, as they offered a safe network and chip-level hacking protections that was lacking in others. For at least a decade, BlackBerry’s have been fully encrypted.
However, Blackberry is no longer a feasible option for many companies, as the phone’s market share had shrunk to less than 2% in the United States in 2015.
Other smartphones :
There is a phone with high security and high prices to match for those for whom security is vital.
By default, Silent Circle’s $799 Blackphone 2 provides full device encryption. The enterprise-grade phone works through Silent Circle’s own Silent OS, an operating system built around privacy and with Android.