Mobile Security Smackdown: iOS vs. Android vs. BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone

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What's the most secure smartphone? It's a simple question that gets more complicated the more you scratch at the surface.

In the BYOD era, where nearly half of companies have reported mobile-device-related data or security breaches and 64 percent of companies have no BYOD policies, according to security firm Veracode, mobile security is a growing imperative for solution providers looking to protect the networks they manage. That puts the BYOD burden on IT and solution provider partners to ensure mobile best practices over the ragtag assortment of devices employees drag into the office.

While there are dozens of handsets and tablets to consider, it boils down to four mobile OS platforms: Apple's iOS vs.Google's Android vs. BlackBerry vs. Microsoft's Windows Phone.

[Related: Horror Stories: Top 5 BYOD Threats]

Apple's iPhone and iPad have the widest adoption in the enterprise, according to the mobile device management (MDM) companies CRN interviewed for this story. Theodora Titonis, vice president of mobile at Burlington, Mass.-based Veracode, credits Apple's success to its iron-fisted control over the device hardware, software and ecosystem of apps -- along with additions such as iOS 7's new content and application management APIs.

Android, the most popular mobile OS platform on the planet, has made huge gains in the enterprise despite antivirus vendors pointing out the litany of malware attacks on Android devices. Chief Android backer Samsung has championed the OS, heavily publicizing its SAFE (Samsung Approved For Enterprise) extensions and Knox security platform built into some of its Android devices to warm the OS' appeal to businesses.

Microsoft with its Windows Phone 8 smartphone OS offers unique capabilities such as integration with Active Directory, giving MDM companies the ability to better administer and assign policies to groups of users. There is, of course, native Active Sync support as well. And security experts say that Windows Phone 8 has made huge strides in offering much more robust application sandboxing.

Then there's BlackBerry, which still has enormous respect among solution providers for its myriad security capabilities, such as its BBM service and security features in its retooled BES 10 management server. There is Exchange Active Sync support now and additions such as Balance technology that lets companies create a partition on a BlackBerry 10 device to keep personal and work apps and data separate.

"Consumers have a tendency to gravitate toward what's bright and shiny in the mobile world," Veracode's Titonis said. But that doesn't always add up to safe. "The BYOD onus is on the end user to make the right decision for them on smartphones and tablets and using them safely."

She said the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty low when it comes to the hype surrounding mobile threats to security and privacy.
"It's time to take a deep breath when considering what the most secure mobile platform is," Titonis said. Even the most secure mobile OS can't prevent a security IT nightmare if a user doesn't use their device with common sense, she added.

That sentiment was shared by Jerry Zigmont, owner of MacWorks, an Apple partner based in Madison, Conn. "I don't think there is one phone that is any more secure than the other." Zigmont, however, said Apple and iOS 7 have a slight edge over Android, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry.

NEXT: Apple Tops Security, Say Most Experts And VARs

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