iOS ‘almost impossible’ to penetrate

Cyber-criminals only target jailbroken iPhones, according to Symantec.

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iOS ‘almost impossible’ to penetrate Cox: Because iOS is a much more closed system, attackers focus more on Android.
By  Tom Paye Published  March 16, 2014

Mobile malware has largely been confined to the Android operating system simply because Apple's iOS is "almost impossible" for attackers to penetrate, according to Orla Cox, senior manager of security intelligence delivery at Symantec.

Speaking to ITP.net, Cox explained that, while it was possible for cyber-criminals to penetrate iPhones, the devices would typically have to be jailbroken - a software-unlocking process that voids the warranty on iOS devices. For the vast majority of iOS devices, however, it is incredibly difficult for attackers to find a way in, she said.

"iOS is a much more closed system, it's much more difficult for attackers to get malware onto an iPhone," she said.

"Typically it'd be jailbroken. But for those that aren't, it's almost impossible for attackers to get malware onto those, so [attackers focus] predominantly [on] Android at the moment."

However, with Android making up 78.4% of the smartphone market in 2013, according to the latest figures from Gartner, the mobile malware threat is becoming more serious, Cox said. She explained that Symantec had seen a four-fold increase in the number of pieces of mobile malware from June 2012 to June 2013.

"While the absolute numbers aren't comparable to what we see on PCs, the increase is absolutely huge," she said.

"In June 2012, we would have seen around 30,000 pieces of malware, and now it would be around 270,000. That gives you a sense of the increase there."

Aside from the large-scale growth that is being seen in mobile malware, Cox warned that the malware was becoming more sophisticated, particularly as more people begin to adopt mobile payments.

"[Attackers are] looking to make money, so you're going to see them continue to focus on that," she said.

In terms of the overall security threat landscape, however, others have maintained that mobile malware does not yet warrant a significant amount of attention. Last week, Gartner vice president Peter Firstbrook explained to ITP.net that he believed the mobile threat landscape to be made up mostly "nuisance attacks".

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