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Study shows Apple's iOS apps are greater security risk than Android

When it comes to mobile security (opens in new tab), Apple’s iOS is widely regarded to be a safer platform than its rival Android, but a new study suggests this consensus may have to be reconsidered.

Mobile application analyst Appthority has published its App Reputation Report (opens in new tab) for February 2013, and having heavily scrutinised downloads on each software platform, the group claims iOS apps exhibit “more risky behaviours” and are a greater threat to our privacy.

The study’s research team used the cloud-based Appthority Platform to perform both “static and dynamic analysis” on the top 50 free apps from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The tests included examining how the apps sent and received data, their use of encryption and location tracking, how they shared data with advertising and analytics networks, what areas of a device they accessed, and also the background of their developers.

Among the report’s notable head-to-head figures, 60 per cent of the iOS apps tracked user location compared to just 42 per cent on Android, and 54 per cent on iOS accessed the user’s contact list to 20 per cent on Android.

Meanwhile, 60 per cent of the iOS downloads shared data with third parties, compared to 50 per cent of the Android products, and 14 per cent from Apple’s App Store even accessed user calendars - something that wasn't seen at all in the Android sample.

Appthority emphasised the potential vulnerability of personal data when we have applications running on our devices, as every single iOS app analysed sent and received data without encryption, with 92 per cent of Android apps doing the same.

“Similar to last year’s report, iOS apps had more access to user data than Android. In fact, this year’s iOS apps had even more access to data than the iOS apps from last year,” Appthority said.

“It’s generally perceived that Android devices are more ‘dangerous’ due to the increasing amount of Android malware. But in actuality, mobile malware infects less than one per cent of apps. The real concern should be over how mobile apps are handling personal info and company data. In that respect, iPhones should not be considered any safer than Android devices. Any Internet-connected device can be put data at risk.”

Despite the increasing levels of concern being raised over apps invading privacy and accessing our personal information, Appthority predicts mobile products are set to become further entrenched in our devices and will harvest more data than ever before.

“Appthority anticipates that this trend will increase for both iOS and Android apps moving forward. As developers seek ways to monetise free mobile apps, users will be asked to approve of more app permissions that have less to do with these apps, but collect their personal data and share it with outside parties.”

Will began working life as a technology journalist at ITProPortal as Senior Staff Writer. He's worked as a Copywriter, then Creative Lead across video, social, email, web and print. He is currently a Senior Content Strategist at Zone.