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iOS Security: Challenges and Opportunities

By Rich

I just posted an article on iOS (iPhone/iPad) security that I’ve been thinking about for a while over at TidBITS.

Here are excerpts from the beginning and ending:

One of the most controversial debates in the security world has long been the role of market share. Are Macs safer because there are fewer users, making them less attractive to serious cyber-criminals? Although Mac market share continues to increase slowly, the answer remains elusive. But it’s more likely that we’ll see the answer in our pockets, not on our desktops.

The iPhone is arguably the most popular phone series on the face of the planet. Include the other iOS devices – the iPad and iPod touch – and Apple becomes one of the most powerful mobile device manufacturers, with over 100 million devices sold so far. Since there are vastly more mobile phones in the world than computers, and since that disparity continues to grow, the iOS devices become far more significant in the big security picture than Macs.

Security Wins, For Now – In the overall equation of security risks versus advantages, Apple’s iOS devices are in a strong position. The fundamental security of the platform is well designed, even if there is room for improvement. The skill level required to create significant exploits for the platform is much higher than that needed to attack the Mac, even though there is more motivation for the bad guys.

Although there have been some calls to open up the platform to additional security software like antivirus tools (mostly from antivirus vendors), I’d rather see Apple continue to tighten down the screws and rely more on a closed system, faster patching rate, and more sandboxing. Their greatest opportunities for improvement lie with increased awareness, faster response (processes), and greater realization of the potential implications of security exposures.

And even if Apple doesn’t get the message now, they certainly will the first time there is a widespread attack.

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