A leaked report shows that Apple’s mobile operating system is the most secure against a specific spyware program used by the government.
The document was anonymously leaked who got a hold of documents from Gamma Group, an international manufacturer of surveillance and monitoring systems. The research found that iOS was almost impossible to break into using spyware called FinSpy. The software can extract calls, texts, contacts and can even access a phone’s microphone.
The only way researchers could break into iOS is if a user jailbroke his or her device. Jailbreaking is the act of unlocking secure parts of the operating system. Some users want to jailbreak their phones to customize and add features that Apple doesn’t allow.
Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile did not fair so well. Android can be hacked using FinSpy, affecting all versions since 2.0. Even the latest version of Android (4.4.x) is vulnerable. Windows Phone wasn’t breached because FinSpy doesn’t support the operating system yet.
“Apple is the most vertically integrated technology company in the world. That means they have the ability to control every aspect of their devices, including the security… There are just huge swaths of Android that are outside the control of Google,” said telecommunications system architect Bart Stidham speaking with The Washington Post.
In contrast, Android is an open-source operating system which means manufacturers are free to modify the operating system to their liking. This makes security inconsistent between Android devices. Android is also the most popular mobile operating system in the world, making it a high value target for hackers.
iOS users should be happy that their device’s security is strong, but not invincible. Apple has a history of leaving their lock screens vulnerable. Wired also reported on how hackers could infect iPhones with a botnet by exploiting syncing with Windows computers. This type of attack will be limited in scale since it would require iPhone users to plug their phones into an infected Windows computer.
“iOS itself is very secure. But if you consider the whole ecosystem, you can see that PCs play an important role, and they’re very likely to be compromised. That leaves the iPhone in an insecure state too,” says Tielei Wang, one of the three security researchers that discovered the vulnerability.
Check out my article about how to protect yourself online for some quick tips.
Source: Netzpolitik.org (PDF)
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