The best mobile OS: security showdown

Summary:Smartphone security is fraught with peril. So few casual users realise they're carrying a complete personal computer in their pocket — one that's designed to connect to networks and transfer more data than their PC ever does.

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BlackBerry OS

Research In Motion (RIM) developed the BlackBerry OS, the second-oldest system on this list, in-house to put on their zeitgeist-capturing devices in the late '90s, but it wasn't until the launch of the BlackBerry itself in 2002 that the mobile data movement began. In the early noughties, as the BlackBerry became synonymous with push email, only know-it-now business types felt the need to receive emails on the train, at meetings or in bed.

Many organisations — including the White House — that invested in BlackBerrys for staff also deployed server management like the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to monitor and secure the network data and control data, and a slew of security features have evolved out of it. Just like Apple, RIM's software is a tightly run ship because it's programmed for the hardware it runs on. Fiberlink's Adams explains further.

"There's no question BlackBerry is the gold standard. The architecture is built from the ground up for security — it includes military-grade encryption, and has the most robust security and management platform available."

The enterprise-level features allow a centralised network admin to set and push security policies out to the whole fleet, which means that if a handset is lost or stolen, the admin can remotely lock or wipe it as soon as it happens.

Because the corporate end of the market isn't really the demographic for Angry Birds, pretty wallpapers or fart buttons, the BlackBerry App Store is also more known for productivity and business utilities, and is not nearly as large as its better-known rivals. Apps must also adhere to a stricter application programming interface (API) than in the open-source worlds of Linux or Android, and they're delivered through BlackBerry App World interfaces on the phone, dedicated software or the App World website, so there's less chance of downloading something nasty. Software that uses certain functions must also be digitally signed.

"There've been few real vulnerabilities, and the tools to secure the devices can easily address most of them," says Adams.

BlackBerry further increased its security profile in late April 2011 by launching BlackBerry Protect in Australia and New Zealand, an app that lets you backup, restore and locate your handset wirelessly.

Yet, there's hope for those who want to harness BlackBerry but love other devices. BlackBerry Enterprise Server will, in the future, also be able to support iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets.

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Topics: Security, Mobile OS

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