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Google's Schmidt: Android 'more secure than the iPhone'

Schmidt didn't say what he based his comment on, but the comment will ruffle feathers among iOS fans.

A look at mobile security, courtesy of Juniper Networks.
A look at mobile security, courtesy of Juniper Networks. Juniper Networks

Google executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says he believes his company's mobile platform is more secure than iOS.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on Monday, Schmidt was pressed on Android security by Gartner analyst David Willis, who noted that many people say Android is not secure. Schmidt was quick to respond, indicating that a comparative analysis is needed to fully evaluate his company's mobile operating system.

"Not secure? It's more secure than the iPhone," Schmidt said in response, according to CNET sister site ZDNet, which was in attendance at the event.

Not surprisingly, Schmidt's comments have ruffled the feathers of iOS users and have thrust mobile security back into the spotlight. His comments also fly in the face of some recent data released on mobile security.

In August, for example, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a report on mobile malware that indicated 79 percent of mobile malware threats affect Android. Another 19 percent of the threats target Symbian. Apple's iOS was targeted by less than 1 percent of mobile malware threats.

That report followed a release from Juniper Networks, which found that mobile malware was up 614 percent between March 2012 and March 2013. The company indicated that 92 percent of all the known mobile malware targeted Android.

Still, that report mentioned a key point: 77 percent of Android threats could be eliminated if users had downloaded the latest version of Google's operating system.

For its part, Google has been proactive in its attempt to improve Android security. In August, for instance, the company offered up several security enhancements for Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean).

Schmidt's comments will undoubtedly conjure up the debate between Windows and OS X users over which platform was truly more secure. Apple fans indicated that the sheer amount of malware was enough to prove their favored platform was tops, while Microsoft's supporters said it was simply a numbers game -- more Windows devices meant more hackers would spend time trying to break into Microsoft's operating system. If OS X were put to the same test, they said, it would have similar troubles.

Schmidt made a similar argument at the Gartner event, saying that because his company's platform has more than a billion users worldwide, it goes through the most rigorous real-world security testing.