Apple has turned what used to be seen as a competitive disadvantage into a security benefit, according to experts at the RSA Conference.
Stephen Trilling, senior vice president of security technology and response at Symantec, said during a panel session that Apple used to be derided in the industry for having such a closed system, but that the approach has considerable security advantages.
"A lot of people would argue that what hurt Apple 30 years ago, being so closed to most software, is helping the company now," he said.
"The iPhone is a very locked down system and now that's helping as applications are limited in what they can do on the platform."
However, Trilling counselled against complacency. Many in the industry had believed that Java was pretty secure, but it has been successfully subverted by hackers.
Several panellists commented that they have had little support from Apple in trying to create security software for the platform.
Nikolay Grebennikov, chief technology officer at Kaspersky Lab, warned that a major infection of smartphones is coming, which may cause a change of heart at Apple.
"On Apple you can mostly do nothing from a security point of view," he said. "I think we will see a mass outbreak in the coming years. If that happens Apple might open up to us."
Grebennikov also pointed out that Apple users are not immune from criminals, and that social engineering attacks are proving very effective.
The most likely method of mobile malware distribution, via rogue applications sold in application stores, could also cause Apple security headaches, according to George Kurtz, chief technology officer for McAfee.
"Application stores are a big problem. Do you really think anyone validates all the apps in there? It's an attack vector and people are going to use it," he said.
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