It seems like almost everybody these days are using one or another kind of smart phones and tablets. Hard to believe it? Before you Google for figures, just look anywhere. On trains, on buses, at sidewalks, inside Starbucks and literally everywhere, you will see people being occupied with and lost in their smart gadgets.
Gartner predicted over 468 millions smart phones will be sold in 2011. That’s only smart phones, not including the tablet sales. While tablets are not sold as much as smart phones yet, they are fast growing and will soon catch up. In fact, the number of smart phone users and daily usages have surpassed that off laptops and desktop computers. The growth will not slow down; it is only likely to go up exponentially.
According to reports from Canalys and Juniper Research, only about 4 percent of smart phones and tablets shipped in 2010 have some form of mobile security installed, while the security threat for mobile devices have been increased. This includes viruses and malwares.
Is Antivirus Program For Mobile Devices Necessary?
Then the question here is if two popular OS for smart phones and tablets – Apple iOS and Android – will be prone to virus threats. Simply put, is antivirus program for mobile devices a necessity? While Android users are used to installing antivirus apps on their devices, iOS fans might stubbornly defend that their beloved devices need no protection from virus. While that might partially reflect the current state of virus security on iOS devices, fact of the matter is, Apple iOS devices can be infected by viruses too, under certain circumstances.
The ecosystem of Android OS is open. Everybody can create an app and release it on either Google Android Marketplace or their own. Every Android user can download the apps into their devices and install it. There are no strict monitoring protocols to make sure no malicious codes are within the apps. As it stands now, there have been reports of malwares and viruses targeting Android phones. But the way those gadgets get infected will not be the same as on personal computers, where the viruses replicate, infect other files and spread like wildfire. Plus, the intention of viruses on smart phones is likely to be different from those of personal computers.
Nonetheless, due to such potential threats, Android users have the luxury to install antivirus programs on their devices. Is it really necessary? Well, better safe than sorry. Will it absolutely protect your Android devices from all viruses and malwares? The protection won’t be 100%, as with on PCs, but it’s much better than leaving your devices naked. The open ecosystem nature of Android allows third-party security apps like from AVG, Symantec and Lookout to run real-time code-scanning and data-protection features that catch or mitigate zero day, or rather unpatched, exploits and security loopholes.
On the other end of the spectrum is tightly controlled ecosystem of Apple. All iOS apps have to go through rigorous monitoring and review process by Apple. Chances of slipping in malicious codes are extremely thin. Major argument here is unless your iOS device is jailbroken, antivirus apps are not necessary. In case your device is jailbroken, then you are likely to be exposing your device to several security risks if no precautions are taken. Most iOS users jailbreaking their devices also tend to install pirated copies of apps from third party sources. Then there is a high chance of getting exploited by malwares and viruses.
But then iOS is not without security exploits. A popular jailbreaking method uses a security weakness in PDF files rendering on iOS and deliver jailbreaking code sequences. If this method can be used for jailbreaking, then delivering malicious codes using similar exploits is entirely possible. Unfortunately, due to tightly controlled approach by Apple, protection from third-party apps is almost impossible unless you jailbreak. Yes, you read that right. Possibility to protect your iOS devices from OS native security weaknesses will require you to jailbreak, while jailbreaking itself presents other kind of security vulnerabilities as well.
As an end-user, general rule of the thumb here is to follow and apply whatever best security practices you can find for your tablets and smartphones. If you are an avid Android user, then install third-party antivirus apps to make sure your device is free of malwares and virus threats. If you are an iOS fan, then you will have to make a choice between relying on Apple’s periodical security patches and jailbreaking your phone to protect it.
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