Android iPhone and iPad Security Windows

What Is The Most Secure Mobile Operating System?

Philip Bates 09-06-2016

We’ve already established that your smartphone needs good security software Do You Need Antivirus Apps on Android? What About iPhone? Does Android need antivirus apps? What about your iPhone? Here's why smartphone security apps are important. Read More to battle an array of hacks and flaws 3 Smartphone Security Flaws That You Should Be Aware Of Read More , but which operating system is the best at holding its own against attacks?


Battling for the title of Most Secure Mobile OS, we have: Android, BlackBerry, Ubuntu, Windows Phone, and iOS. Time for them to duke it out!


This OS’s reputation has been damaged by weaknesses like StageFright How 95% of Android Phones Can Be Hacked with a Single Text A new Android vulnerability has the security world worried - and it leaves your smartphone extremely vulnerable. The StageFright bug allows malicious code to be sent by MMS. What can you do about this security... Read More , which meant cybercriminals could hack into your phone simply by sending a suspect multimedia message. Google’s slow response also lost them a great deal of credibility; in fact, only the Nexus is guaranteed to have had the patch. Otherwise, users need to turn-off auto-retrieval of MMS.


Because Android is open source Is Android Really Open Source? And Does It Even Matter? Here we explore whether or not Android is really open source. After all, it is based on Linux! Read More , app developers can use complex C++ programming How to Learn C++ Programming: 6 Sites to Get Started Want to learn C++? Here are the best websites and online courses to C++ for beginners and experience programmers alike. Read More , or Java — which makes it easier for criminals to insert malicious code. It’s a massive target for malware Malware on Android: The 5 Types You Really Need to Know About Malware can affect mobile as well as desktop devices. But don't be afraid: a bit of knowledge and the right precautions can protect you from threats like ransomware and sextortion scams. Read More , and a study of more than 2.5 million apps last year found that 97% of malware targeted Android.

The OS doesn’t automatically alert you to the issue, with hackers using rootkits like Ghostware, which not only hides its intent but also covers any tracks afterwards.


It’s up to the Android community to spread the word about questionable apps. Even the Google Play Store isn’t infallible, but you could at least disable the setting that allows you to download third-party apps, although “side loading” does have its benefits How to Sideload Any File onto Your Android Phone or Tablet You may have come across the term "sideloading" before, but what does it mean? And how can you go about sideloading apps or files? Read More . (This would at least decrease the chances of being victim to some malicious practices; for instance, Trojan apps containing Android.Fakelogin, which presents a fake login page for any banking app you use 5 Vital Security Tips For Smarter Smartphone Banking As smartphones have become more capable, many people have begun to use them as a banking tool, and logging in to a bank account on-the-go is much easier and quicker via mobile data than any... Read More , aren’t on the Google Play Store.)

And that’s the thing about Android: it’s fine if you’re happy to toggle your security settings yourself.

None of this sounds particularly good for users, but Google at least promises monthly updates for the Nexus, its “perfect”, Google-branded smartphone. Another positive is the wealth of security apps 6 Android Security Apps You Should Install Today Android security apps - capable of blocking malware and phishing attempts - are necessary if you wish to run a safe and secure smartphone. Let's look at some of the best Android security apps currently... Read More  that battle phishing and malware, provide solid anti-virus software What Is the Best Antivirus App for Android? Keep your Android device safe and secure with one of these amazing antivirus apps. Read More , and a firewall.


The reality is, Android’s the most used OS in the world, so it’s going to also be the biggest target. Open source systems are hugely popular — with buyers and scammers.


The BlackBerry’s popularity plummeted a few years ago, despite the decent reviews for their Priv handset Read BlackBerry Priv Reviews, Try Cortana for iPhone... [Digest] See whether the BlackBerry Priv lives up to the hype, Cortana comes to the iPhone, Medium lets writers ignore readers, GOG launches its fall sale, and when Star Wars and Star Trek collide. Read More . Their own OS has been superseded by Android (which takes some getting used to How to Switch from BlackBerry to Android Making the switch from BlackBerry to Android? Here's everything you need to know. Read More ) after the PlayBook tablet 6 Reasons To Avoid The BlackBerry PlayBook The BlackBerry PlayBook is available. It has the brand behind it, but does it make for a wise purchase decision? Read this article to decide for yourself if the PlayBook gives you the bang for... Read More , which used a QNX-like system, proved to be a complete failure The 4 Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2011 Last year was a successful year for a number of companies. Apple successfully launched a new iPad and iPhone, both of which sold like hot cakes. Google launched Google+, a social network we’re all glad... Read More .


The handsets that run on Android are susceptible to the same problems as Samsung, HTC, and other models. Fortunately, the Priv gives you access to the Google Play Store, so you don’t have to rely on third-parties.


But what if you use an older BlackBerry with its original OS?

BlackBerrys were built with security in mind, which is reassuring enough for the likes of President Obama and UK Prime Minster David Cameron, who previously said:

“Wherever I am in the world, I am always within a few feet of a BlackBerry and an ability to manage things should they need to be managed… The Government has a BlackBerry service. They’re actually very good for emails and documents.”

You’d think if two major Governments relied on the system, they’d be the most secure — and again, the Canadian firm is on the ball when it comes to the Priv — but is the older OS capable of protecting against hacks? Hacker, Steve Lord, who runs Mandalorian Security Services Ltd, reveals:


“Older smartphones tend be considered less secure as they’re usually affected by known weaknesses. If you’re using an older phone you’re better off with a classic dumb phone. If you have to have an older smartphone, use an older BB10-based Blackberry, or a Windows Phone running Windows Phone 8 or newer.”

What’s more, when Sony was attacked by cybercriminals in late 2014, they relied on BlackBerrys to see them through the crisis; this end-to-end encryption How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More , no matter what the recipient’s model, is a core reason BlackBerrys remain a good option for the security-minded.

Ubuntu Touch

With the first device using Ubuntu released last year Should You Get an Ubuntu Touch Phone or Tablet? But is the Ubuntu Touch platform a truly successful mobile iteration of Linux's most well-known distribution? Can it compete with Android and iOS? We're going to take a look. Read More , many are predicting that manufacturers will switch from Android to the Linux kernel system What Is a Kernel in Linux and How Do You Check Your Version? Linux is an operating system, right? Well, not exactly! It's actually a kernel. But what is the Linux kernel? Read More instead.

For those who don’t know about Ubuntu Touch Ubuntu: A Beginner's Guide Curious about Ubuntu, but not sure where to start? Everything you could possibly need to get started with the latest version of Ubuntu is right here, written in easy-to-understand, plain English. Read More , it’s an open-source OS, similar to Android, is completely free, and supported by the Free/Libre Open-Source Software (FLOSS) community and Canonical Ltd, which was founded by Ubuntu’s creator. The latter ensures that new versions, including patches, are released every six months.


That’s the important part: you have to keep it up-to-date. Many desktop computers using the OS don’t receive security patches Why You Should Always Keep Your Ubuntu Installation Updated [Linux] Read More unless they’re on an LTS (long term support) release; fortunately, as their smartphones are new, they’ll be supported for a while yet.

Ubuntu prides itself on saving its users from malware and spyware, but it is open source, so some nefarious apps can slip through the net. Fixes, though, are typically rolled out quicker because the open source Open Source Software and Forking: The Good, The Great and The Ugly Sometimes, the end-user benefits greatly from forks. Sometimes, the fork is done under a shroud of anger, hatred and animosity. Let's look at some examples. Read More  community has access to the code, can test a patch, and send it to Linux HQ. In contrast, closed source codes can only be accessed by company employees.

The Ubuntu App Store is more secure because it uses an automated review tool that checks if a new application is secure, and if anything questionable is found, it’s subject to a manual review too. What’s more, you need to enable certain permissions before apps install any surplus.

Plus, of course, there’s the fact — sorry, Linux users — that it’s not a massively popular system right now (at least in relation to Android and iOS), so attacks are few and far between. As it grows in popularity, Ubuntu will be a bigger target. To put that in perspective, in October 2015, an app taking advantage of flaws in the installation code affected a grand total of 15 people.

Major companies like Netflix, Snapchat, and Dropbox all run on Ubuntu — as does the International Space Station and Large Hadron Collider! Linux Is Everywhere: 10 Things You Didn't Know Were Penguin-Powered If you think the world rests on Windows, think again. Linux plays a crucial role in keeping our world going. Read More — and the UK’s Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG), which assesses the security of operating systems, found in 2013 that Ubuntu is the most secure OS.

Still, the extensive list of security notices is troubling; bear in mind, however, these are at least vulnerabilities that have been patched. Ubuntu is by no means infallible, but time and time again, it stands up against vulnerabilities other OS’s struggle with.

Windows Phone & W10 Mobile

Ubuntu might be a strong candidate for the Most Secure OS, but it has serious competition from Windows Phone and W10 Mobile, which even Eugene Kaspersky (CEO of the Internet security firm) endorses as:

“So far very clean.”

He doesn’t expand on that statement, though. So what makes Windows Phones so secure?


Microsoft keeps its Windows App Store on a tight leash, so unless your Windows Phone is jailbroken The Secret To Unlocking Your Windows Phone Windows Phones come locked by default, with users only able to install apps from the Windows Phone Marketplace on a region-specific basis. This can result in some disparity between users based in different territories and... Read More , you have to go through the official channels to download apps; these have more restrictions than the other operating systems, but what sets them apart is the “sandbox” approach, which means apps don’t interact with each other unless you give them permission. They’re cordoned off from one another, so they can’t cause problems.

Again, that doesn’t mean it’s without vulnerabilities, but patches will be issued — you just need to update regularly Secure Your Windows Phone With Passcodes & Backups Are you prepared to lose your Windows Phone? Spend a few minutes right now to prevent unauthorised access and secure your data. It will save you a lot of drama in a worst case scenario. Read More . You have to do the same with the software itself, but that can be automated. Check if the version you’re running is the most recent by going on Settings > Phone update, and there you can also tick the Automatically download updates if my data settings allow it box.

Another positive thing for Windows Phones is how small the user base currently is MakeUseOf Says Goodbye To Windows Phone This is going to be a tearful goodbye, buddy, but it has to happen. MakeUseOf will soon be parting ways with Windows Phone. Read More (bad news for Microsoft; good news for security); so small, in fact, that there weren’t any firewall or anti-virus apps available on Windows 8.1 Everything You Need To Know About Windows Phone 8.1 Security If you're using a Microsoft account across multiple devices, losing your phone could get you into a whole lot of trouble. Let us show you how you can keep your phone secure. Read More when it was released.

Microsoft has a bad reputation when it comes to allowing fraudulent apps to populate its store, but the firm is brushing up on this in an effort to get a bigger audience.

Because it’s so new Get Windows 10 Mobile Now, Apple Engineers Threaten to Quit... [Tech News Digest] Windows 10 Mobile has finally arrived, Apple engineers are in it to win it, Nintendo releases its first mobile app, Nike releases self-tying sneakers, and Improv Everywhere reveal the secret of time travel. Read More , there’s very little information on Windows 10 Mobile security, but it could be susceptible to the malware inflicted on the desktop system, as they are essentially the same (although they utilize different hardware architecture). This is where sandboxing comes in to protect you. If you’re on Windows 8, you should download a recognized security app.

An added bonus of Windows 10 Mobile is Device Encryption, which essentially locks your device down if it gets lost using sophisticated BitLocker technology Free Military-Grade Privacy For Your Files: How Bitlocker Works [Windows] Ever heard that quote about trying to explain how a television works to an ant? I'm not calling you an ant, even though you are hard-working and enjoy the occasional sip of aphid milk. What... Read More . If someone doesn’t have your encryption key, your files are unreadable. It’s a PIN that you need to activate by going on Settings > System > Device encryption.


Just like the Google Play Store for Android, Apple vets all apps on its App Store: applications exist in their own ecosystem, only available to the end-user once the company has checked their intent. This is known as their “walled garden” and millions bought into that seemingly-unbreakable level of security.

Then cracks started to appear.


Most notably, some 500 million users of the Chinese messenger app, WeChat, could’ve been victim to malware after a modified version of the Xcode Malware Invades Apple's Walled Garden, 85 MPH Bike Ride...[Tech News Digest] The best-selling adblocker for iOS shut down two days after launch, Steam offers 1500 Linux games, Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests, and an iconic Windows sound heard in an entirely new way. Read More (used by developers) was approved by Apple — and that wasn’t the only app infected. Whereas before, malware was only a problem to those who have jailbroken their smartphones 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad Jailbreaking can get rid of Apple's many restrictions, but before you jailbreak your device it's a good idea to weigh up the benefits and potential drawbacks. Read More , it now appears that Apple isn’t as security-conscious as once thought.

The dust never really settled after the so-called “celebgate,” How A "Minor" Data Breach Made Headline News & Ruined Reputations Read More when the iCloud accounts of numerous celebrities were hacked and compromising photos leaked 4 Ways To Avoid Being Hacked Like A Celebrity Leaked celebrity nudes in 2014 made headlines around the world. Make sure it doesn't happen to you with these tips. Read More . Suddenly, iPhone users became aware of other security threats How to Fix 5 Common iPhone & iPad Security Threats New security threats prove that Apple devices are no longer "bullet-proof". IPhone and iPad owners need to know which threats they could encounter, and how to fix them if the worst happens. Read More .

John Gunn, vice president at Vasco Data Security, says:

“Apple’s security strategy is so well-engineered that its biggest danger may be the false sense of security that it gives developers and the massive number of iPhone users.”

It can’t be that bad, surely? In terms of popularity, iOS comes a close second to Android, yet the latter’s reputation for getting viruses is much worse. Apple’s security is boosted by the fact that, unlike Android, it’s a closed source system, with sandboxed restrictions so you have to agree whenever an app tries to communicate with another part of the OS.

iOS’ built-in encryption is pretty tough to compete with too, but if that’s what you’re really after, WhatsApp offers a similarly-secure service WhatsApp Encryption: It's Now the Most Secure Instant Messenger (Or is it?) Since being acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp has been forced to clean up its approach to security and privacy, which resulted in the news last year that it has introduced new encryption measures. Read More .

The really positive thing about iPhones is how unlockable they are. After the FBI detained gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, they appealed to Apple to open his smartphone. Apple refused Apple Refuses to Help the FBI, Popcorn Time Returns... [Tech News Digest] Apple stands up for personal privacy, the original Popcorn Time gets resurrected, Kanye West learns the price of piracy, Sega gives games away on Steam, and play Pong on your Apple Watch. Read More . They eventually found a hacker capable of cracking it, his willingness ensured by a $1.3 million payment.

This tells us that not only are iPhones pretty damn difficult to unlock, but also that Apple value privacy (or at least want to be seen to advocate it).

Is There a Clear Winner?

It’s tough to call because popularity plays a key part in how often its targeted by cybercriminals. Each OS has its pros and cons, and no matter what, you’re still traceable 4 Services That Track You Through Your Smartphone Whether you paid for your smartphone outright, or have it on contract, there's a further price to be paid for the conveniences you use. Are you happy to be tracked through your device? Read More  — whether by shops and malls How Shops Track You Using Your Smartphone How would you feel if a retail tracked your smartphone as you browsed their store? Would it be easier to palate if they offered you some discounts while breaching your privacy? Read More , map apps, or Governmental intelligence services Sick of the NSA Tracking You? Burn Them with a Burner Phone Sick of the NSA tracking you using your phone's positioning coordinates? Prepaid phones known colloquially as "burners" can provide you with partial privacy. Read More .

Android: If you’re up to toggling security tools — and limiting yourself to the Google Play Store — Android is fine, but nonetheless susceptible to malware. Due to their expedited roll-out, the Nexus is the safest bet for the security conscious.

BlackBerry: Older versions of the OS appear secure, but newer models’ reliance on Android compromises the handset. Security patches for the Priv are rolled out faster than many Android-run smartphones, but they’re still prone to malicious software from third-parties.

Ubuntu: It’s tough to argue that this isn’t the most secure system, but it’ll come under more attacks once it gains significant traction with regular users. Not everyone is wild about Linux Why Linux Isn't As Good As Everyone Makes It Out To Be [Opinion] Linux is a highly developed, stable and advanced operating system - this, I will never question. It comes in every conceivable flavour - from server solutions that simply work (again, this cannot be argued with)... Read More , and there will always be concerns over open source, but at least the App Store has tight review measures.

Windows Phone: The same can be said for Windows Phones; when the market share increases, so will the number of attacks. The sandboxing method is in its favor, but you do have to rely on Microsoft for updates. The company does seem committed, however, so the OS is very secure right now.

iOS: Despite a number of recent security bugs 1,000 iOS Apps Have Crippling SSL Bug: How to Check if You're Affected The AFNetworking bug is giving iPhone and iPad users problems, with 1000s of apps carrying a vulnerability resulting in SSL certificates from being correctly authenticated, potentially facilitating identity theft through man-in-the-middle attacks. Read More and breaches, Apple remains largely trustworthy. Considering its demand rivals Android, its closed system holds malware at bay 1,000 iOS Apps Have Crippling SSL Bug: How to Check if You're Affected The AFNetworking bug is giving iPhone and iPad users problems, with 1000s of apps carrying a vulnerability resulting in SSL certificates from being correctly authenticated, potentially facilitating identity theft through man-in-the-middle attacks. Read More very effectively. While iOS should be fine for most people, consumer trust could fall if another major leak is found anytime soon.

What do I recommend as the most secure smartphone right now? If you prefer an older phone, pre-Priv BlackBerrys are a safe bet. If you want something newer, Ubuntu is very secure, but I can’t see it taking off for a while, so Windows Phone/ W10 Mobile just about beats the competition.

If you’re ready to ditch your smartphone for a feature phone, you might also want to look into alternative mobile operating systems like KaiOS What Is KaiOS and Why Is It the 3rd Most Popular Mobile OS? You've probably never heard of KaiOS, but it's the third biggest mobile OS around. Here's why and how you can get a KaiOS handset. Read More .

Image Credits: Android Firewall by Uncalno Tekno; Blackberry by mxmstryo; Ubuntu Phone by John Baer; Windows Phone Pen by Beau Giles; and iPhone by Gonzalo Baeza.

Related topics: BlackBerry, iPhone, Smartphone Security, Windows Phone.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Mohsin Khan
    December 12, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Windows is the most secure os. And now NYPD starts using it. W10M

  2. nauticalbabyshowerinvitations
    October 17, 2016 at 11:45 am

    My bad! I searched it before posting but did not see that thread in the

  3. Anonymous
    June 28, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Nice Article...

  4. Brad Fehrenbach
    June 15, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    When I saw this artical title I had to leave a comment. Any phone that connects to the internet isn't going to be secure. To be really honest I don't think one brand or one model of any phone is going to be really safe because technically anything can be hacked, we've seen that with the iPhone with the San Bernardino terrorist attackers and Apple said that the phone couldn't be unlocked, but lo and behold out came a hacker from somewhere and unlocked it. Personally I think it doesn't matter how secure your make or model phone clams to be when the biggest security hole is the peson holding the phone. Because people always Pick convenience over security all the time. Plus there's always the fact that phone making companies or cell phone companies don't want to put the newest updates on all the phones because that's what pushes people to buy a new phone.
    That's just my two cents

  5. Anonymous
    June 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I have a Nexus 5 and have never had any malware in 3 years.
    I chose this phone for its regular updates and pure Android.
    I never side-load any apps.

  6. Sumit
    June 14, 2016 at 3:28 am

    This is such a biased, ill-informed article! Totally not what people have come to expect of makeuseof. To highlight just a few things:
    1. Android is based on the Linux kernel, but the author doesn't seem to know that, and goes on to propose how 'Ubuntu touch is looking to move away from Android base to "Linux kernel system"! Since Android kernel is essentially a linux kernel with some android specific features added, all the +ve points for Linux automatically become +ves for Android!
    2. USP of Windows that it has encryption? Android, and AFAIK (older) blackberry OS & iOS all have had them for years!!
    Susceptibility of Android to malware is equal, if not a lot lesser than Windows and Ubuntu atleast.
    Dear author, please do get your facts straight!

    • Philip Bates
      June 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      A bit of cross-purposes here, sorry. I know Android is based on the Linux kernel (I even linked to //, but by the sentence "Ubuntu touch is looking to move away from Android base to Linux kernel system", I meant that phone makers were switching specifically to Ubuntu over Android. I just didn't want to write Ubuntu again for fear of too much repetition.

      And I don't say encryption is Windows' USP; just that it does have that layer of protection. I don't know how I could be biased towards Windows Phone when I don't even own one. Susceptibility to malware might be the same as Android in principle, but Windows and Ubuntu aren't attacked as often so are more secure for users right now.

      • Sumit
        June 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        Hi Philip,

        I do apologize if my tone sounded harsh to you; didn't mean to sound that. I do hold in a very high regard, and hence the surprise/angst at factual mis-representations.

        With that said, the article does confuse a few things - for eg, the fact that encryption was mentioned only for Windows, and not for others makes the general reader think that encryption is something the Windows phones add, and (by exclusion) the others don't.

        Phone makers switching to Ubuntu? Some of them are evaluating, for sure, but Meizu and BQ are the only ones with perhaps 2 models each, out in the market.

        On the topic of malware, I don't know how to respond to this, for an article that talks about security :D - to the argument 'since windows and ubuntu are not attacked as often, so are more secure for users right now' - the only analogy I can see is, "House A with a worse lock is more secure as compared to house B with far superior systems, because B is attacked more than A!" I don't think from a security point of view, it is even coherent!

        I can find a few more flaws in the article, but perhaps I should stop.
        I wish you all the best.

        • VM
          January 4, 2017 at 5:53 am

          Bhai rehne de tereko nahi samjh aayega. Maan le Windows phone jyada secure hai.
          Aree nahi yakin ho toh ask Batman. He uses a windows phone. If you are looking for a windows phone user.
          And windows phone security is only surpassed by iOS only bcoz they use their own manufactured hardware and software And Nothing borrowed. Its a claim by Worlds best legal hackers group of Israel who claim that every phone till date can be hacked only their is only a factor of time that is more for iOS then for windows and rest are just a piece of cake

    • Christian Cawley
      June 14, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Factually there's nothing wrong with the article. However, it's a personal assessment of the situation re: security on smartphones.

  7. Jean-Francois Messier
    June 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I am on the Android side of things, and the quick updates and security patches were only *one* of the reasons why I have a Nexus phone. Although Google will not have the next Android N for the Nexus 5, there will be security updates for this long enough so I can afford a new Nexus phone for the model of the year then. I also realize this phenomena on Tablets and I still regret not to have bought a Nexus tablet from Google, but this Samsung Galaxy Tab S which did not get any update since Android 5.

  8. techrogue
    June 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    A primary issue for Android that is not covered in this article is that each security patch update relies on multiple layers of approval seemingly outside Google's control. When Google patches Android, in most cases both the device manufacturer and the carrier must approve it before availability to the end user. Add to that the financial disincentive for either 3rd party to spend resources on a product that is out of development, and at best the update is delayed months past the vulnerability or at worst and most often will never make it to devices more than a few months old.

    • Philip Bates
      June 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Absolutely - excellent point. The slow/non-existent patches are certainly a worry. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Anonymous
    June 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Phone Carriers are slow to update their Android devices, so you'll could be stucked unpatched for months. Many devices are still on Lollipop.

    Also, on Android phones they are not encrypted by default. You have to go into settings to turn it on if you want to encrypt your phone.

  10. Anonymous
    June 10, 2016 at 7:27 am

    windows ..

  11. Sugi
    June 10, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Now it may be more applicable to have Nokia's camera and iPhone's battery, with the release of the newer Lumias.