Understanding Smartphone Malware and Your Risk

By Rae Avery

Malware is short for malicious software, and is sort of like a computer virus, but specifically designed to target your smartphone through shady apps and security lapses. If your phone gets infected, the malware could steal your GPS coordinates, your contact list, email addresses and other personal information. Some malware can even record phone conversations, and charge you money by authorizing messages to be sent to premium rate numbers or subscribe your phone to premium services, all without your permission, or even your knowledge. Read on to find out whether iPhones really are safer than android phones when it comes to malware, and what you can do to safeguard your smartphone, no matter which device you own.

When designing Apple phones and devices, they made it so users can only get third party apps from the official App Store, where they do a “static analysis” (this means they examine the code without executing the software, ensuring that it meets industry standards) of all submitted app source code before even allowing an app in the store to begin with, among other rigorous security procedures.

One of the core safety features of iOS is “sandboxing,” which ensures all apps are kept separate from each other. This means that installed apps cannot remove system files, and cannot enforce any unauthorized actions. Deep in the DNA of your iPhone is a program called BSD, a version of the UNIX system (sort of a cousin to Linux). BSD requires that in order to read, write, delete or execute files, one must have file permissions. To perform any of these things, one must act as the “root user.” Apple designed it this way on purpose so that users cannot gain root access. Like the child-proof cap on the bottle of Tylenol, it's really for your own good.


Andrew Hendricks

Editor-in-Chief and founder of HumanCreativeContent.com, a website that serves as a hub for freelancers to get new material workshopped and published, as well as an on-demand content platform for websites and new businesses.