The vast majority of mobile devices today are either from Apple (iPhone and iPad), which all run Apple’s proprietary iOS, or they are running a version of Android from Google. Most security researchers consider the Apple iOS to be far more secure than Android for the following primary reason*:
Apple strictly controls their operating system, and only Apple-approved apps can be installed on their devices. Every vendor that uses Android can, and typically does, modify it. As a result, there are hundreds of different versions and varieties of Android on millions of devices. Security updates are typically the responsibility of the different vendors, and newer versions from Google may never be available for your device.
*In all cases, we are assuming that you have NOT “jailbroken” your device (opened a backdoor to its built-in security to allow you (and others) to install software from outside the vendor approved methods) and you apply all patches as they become available.
For this reason, I use and recommend only Apple devices as I consider them the most secure mobile devices currently available.
While there have been some bugs and exploits of Apple devices, Apple has been quick to fix them. The number of instances where devices have actually been compromised is believed to be very small and typically a result of user error and/or carelessness. You can decrease the likelihood of exposing your devices to problems by doing the following:
- Keep the device updated.
- Be very selective on the apps that you install. If you let your children/grandchildren play games on your iPad, then you may not want to use that device for banking.
- Don’t connect your mobile device to any computers you do not own and control.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi or use a VPN if you must.
If you already own an Android device and cannot or will not switch to Apple, then you may want to consider installing security software from one of the major vendors. Webroot, our first choice for your desktop/laptop, also has software for Apple and Android. If you use an Android device to do anything other than basic email, we recommend you install security software to help protect that device. Before purchasing the security software, make sure it works with the version of Android on your device.
I have owned Kindles since Amazon first released them and love it. The Kindle runs a customized version of Android, but it cannot run a lot of the apps in the Google Play store. While Amazon updates the Kindle software periodically, and I think it is a wonderful device, I do not and would not use it for doing anything sensitive (i.e., banking). I use my Kindles for reading books, streaming video and ordering stuff from Amazon. If your email provider supports multi-factor authentication (Google) then I would consider it likely safe for email purposes. While I have tested Gmail on the Kindle and my wife uses it for that purpose, I still prefer the iPhone/iPad for that purpose as they are more secure.
Finally, if you are traveling and find it necessary to use public Wi-Fi (and of course always with a VPN), then I would recommend you install Webroot on those devices, even Apple devices. You simply cannot be certain of what is going on “under the covers” when using public Wi-Fi.