Your iPhone is Safe

One of our local TV stations ran a segment tonight warning their viewers about potential security risks with smartphones. They basically identified two risks: malicious apps and phishing texts. I have no issue with their warnings about suspicious text messages, and I hope that most people are savvy enough to recognize junk texts as illegitimate (would you really give away your social security number to a random text?). But I have a serious issue with their portrayal of malicious apps.

Simply put, they only speak vaguely about “phones”, “smartphones”, and once mention “tablet”. Yet every device they showed was an Apple iPhone or iPad. And there is the rub. Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) can NOT get malicious apps. Let me say that again so there is no doubt: Apple iOS devices can NOT get malicious apps. (A few of you out there may argue that jailbroken iOS devices can get malicious apps, but if you are the type to jailbreak your device, then you know well enough what you are potentially getting yourself into.)

This is one of the main advantages of the tight control Apple retains over their App Store. The Apple App store is the only way of installing apps on iOS devices. Every single app must be specifically reviewed and approved by Apple before it is allowed to be made available to the public. By controlling the only method of installing apps on iOS devices, Apple ensures no malicious software can make its way into the iOS “ecosystem”. Other smartphone platforms, namely Android, do not offer any control over the apps that their devices can download. Consequently, there are already many examples of malware for those platforms. Some technical people argue against Apple’s system, claiming that it isn’t “open” or that it restricts the freedom of software developers. But I guarantee you that owners of iOS devices could care less about “openness” or the freedom of developers – so long as there are plenty of useful and malware-free apps available. 200 million iOS devices sold (as of June 2011) seem to back up Apple’s way of doing things.

So while the news segment never specifically mentions the iPhone or iPad, by ONLY showing video of iOS devices, even going so far as to show the Apple App Store, the clear insinuation is that Apple iOS devices are as susceptible to malware as any other platform. As I have explained, this is blatantly WRONG. While I do not believe this news segment was meant to be deliberately misleading, it is unfortunately spreading misinformation.

To be fair, if you own any smartphone besides an Apple iPhone, you should pay heed to this news segment’s warnings. I would also give the same advice to those that own any tablet besides an iPad, but Apple’s complete and utter domination of this market means that likely not a single person reading this article actually owns a tablet that isn’t an iPad. (There is no “tablet” market, there is only an iPad market)

Bottom line, if you own an Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you have nothing to worry about as long as Apple retains control over their App Store – which there is NO sign of that changing any time soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brianlinzy Brian Linzy

    Spreading disinformation like this is incredibly irresponsible. Of course you can put an app in the market with malicious code. You just have to be smarter than the people reviewing the app. Google “Handy Light” to see just one example of an app that violated Apple’s TOS but was approved any way. There are a lot of ways to sneak malicious apps through the review process.

  • http://marcelbrown.com Marcel Brown

    While you may be technically correct in theory, so far there has not been one example of a malicious app on the Apple App Store. If there were actually “lots of ways” to sneak malicious apps through, I think we would have seen some examples already. There is hardly a more ripe market for exploitation than iOS devices.

    While your example is interesting, we don’t know what Apple’s process is for identifying a malicious app. I would venture that it is much easier to root out malicious apps that are doing strange things to the device than it is to sneak past a hidden feature, as Handy Light did. Additionally, there are safeguards to what iOS apps can do which makes it that much harder to actually implement a malicious app, even if it did get by.Bottom line, the iOS has been out longer than Android and there have been no malicious apps for iOS, while Android has had many. Which goes to the point of my article saying that the news segment was spreading misinformation by saying “smartphones” and “tablets” while ONLY showing iOS devices.