Does Android’s Open Source Nature Make it Less Secure?


Does Android’s Open Source Nature Make it Less Secure

Many smartphone users hold their opinion strongly about certain mobile platform, by displaying feverish loyalty on an OS and an outright disdain for the rest. This fact is especially evident today between Android and iPhone users that often debate their opponents with near religious fervor. There are obviously some compelling reasons why these platforms attract many fanatical users. A research had been performed to determine Android user’s perception on the platform and devices. It was discovered that about 45% Android users choose the platform because it is open source. Actually, Android is not a completely open platform and its openness also means that it is less secure, more fragmented and potentially more buggy, because certain manufacturer-modified variants may have new glitches due to custom changes. Even so, most Android users believe that the platform is intuitive, offer better value, better long-term investment, more logical and offers more opportunities for customization.

Because Android is an open source platform, anyone can study its source code and underlying architecture. In essence, the assumption is based on an old argument that is also supported by closed-source vendors, “openness equals to less security”. By studying the code, hackers can more easily find ways to create exploits.

However, the argument may not always be true, as evidenced by an endless stream of patches that come from Microsoft, despite the fact that Windows OSs are closed-source in nature. In fact, third-party developers must understand the underlying OS structure when creating an application. So obviously, it is not a big secret. Another advantage of open source community is its ability to work 24/7, a horde of users and developers around the world are working each day to make the OS better each day, something that even the biggest closed-source software company can’t do.

Android is a distant derivative of Linux and it has the “genetics” advantage of having some of the Linux strengths in security. Just like Linux, the administrator or “root” status are not given away so easily, consequently each Android app is “contained” and gets only what is needed, for example, an app is not allowed read or write code or data outside its container.

Application installation is based on user permission to prevent malicious app being installed stealthily. On the other hand, iOS users are expected to trust Apple blindly to give them a secure environment, a trust that can be misplaced, due to the fact that suspicious apps have occasionally penetrated the Apple’s App Market.

Lookout, a security research firm reported that Android users are safer because apps have less access on contact list. It is discovered that some free iPhone apps have more access on contact data. In fact, Secunia, a security firm, said that iOS has more vulnerabilities even compared to Microsoft environment. McAfee also believes that malware is increasingly targeting Apple products.

Many major organizations far and wide are placing their increasing trust on open source platforms, including some of the biggest federal departments in U.S. Certainly they won’t accept this platform if openness is equal to less security.

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