Which operating system is the most secure? Four points to remember.

Security

No, you are almost certainly wrong if you tried to guess. A recent study shows that products from Apple actually are at the top when counting vulnerabilities, and that means at the bottom security-wise. Just counting vulnerabilities is not a very scientific way to measure security, and there is a debate over how to interpret the figures. But this is anyway a welcome eye-opener that helps kill old myths.

Apple did for a long time stubbornly deny security problems and their marketing succeeded in building an image of security. Meanwhile Windows was the biggest and most malware-targeted system. Microsoft rolled up the sleeves and fought at the frontline against viruses and vulnerabilities. Their reputation suffered but Microsoft gradually improved in security and built an efficient process for patching security holes. Microsoft had what is most important in security, the right attitude. Apple didn’t and the recent vulnerability study shows the result.

Here’s four points for people who want to select a secure operating system.

  • Forget reputation when thinking security. Windows used to be bad and nobody really cared to attack Apple’s computers before they became popular. The old belief that Windows is unsafe and Apple is safe is just a myth nowadays.
  • There is malware on almost all commonly used platforms. Windows Phone is the only exception with practically zero risk. Windows and Android are the most common systems and malware authors are targeting them most. So the need for an anti-malware product is naturally bigger on these systems. But the so called antivirus products of today are actually broad security suites. They protect against spam and harmful web sites too, just to mention some examples. So changes are that you want a security product anyway even if your system isn’t one of the main malware targets.
  • So which system is most secure? It’s the one that is patched regularly. All the major systems, Windows, OS X and Linux have sufficient security for a normal private user. But they will also all become unsafe if the security updates are neglected. So security is not really a selection criteria for ordinary people.
  • Mobile devices, phones and tablets, generally have a more modern systems architecture and a safer software distribution process. Do you have to use a desktop or laptop, or can you switch to a tablet? Dumping the big old-school devices is a way to improve security. Could it work for you?

So all this really boils down to the fact that you can select any operating system you like and still be reasonable safe. There are some differences though, but it is more about old-school versus new-school devices. Not about Apple versus Microsoft versus Linux. Also remember that your own behavior affects security more than your choice of device, and that you never are 100% safe no matter what you do.

 

Safe surfing,
Micke

 

Added February 27th. Yes, this controversy study has indeed stirred a heated debate, which isn’t surprising at all. Here’s an article defending Apple. It has flaws and represent a very limited view on security, but one of its important points still stands. If someone still thinks Apple is immortal and invincible, it’s time to wake up. And naturally that this whole debate is totally meaningless for ordinary users. Just keep patching what you have and you will be fine. 🙂 Thanks to Jussi (and others) for feedback.

 

4 Comments

I remember someone hack into my Macbook running Snow Leopard while I was doing beta testing…
Someone gain access to the root account and took complete control of my Mac… every sharing was turned on and even parental control…Someone gain access via the root account and take control of my Mac! Root account was enable! Parental Control was turn on, Active Directory turn on, Remote Login SSH turn on, SSH plist files was modify…Remote Desktop turn on…

I for once know that Apple botch up with many Unix Packages updates. Unlike Linux…

That goes the same to my PC… running Windows…changing my password etc…changing my Wifi Router….someone even install a remote desktop program to my PC! Avira antivirus detects it.

They are Spying on me!

Until my hard disk has gone bad sector!

I become their victim of things every single day. I’ve been their victim of abuse and their survillence!

I often wonder if all the “victims of things” ever realize that nobody actually ever forces them to buy all those “things” they later become victims of. Weird species, aren’t we (or they, go figure…). I am now officially shaking my head 😀

I’m going to weigh in on this in an unusual way by suggesting a strategy for the security conscious. I’ve used every kind of operating system that I’m aware of including most of the Linux systems which are my preference.

As for security you need to think in layers, browser security, antivirus security, intrusion detections, and vulnerability detections/exploit detections. For browser security safe habits that include getting rid of time sensitive cookies, decent passwords, etc.

For antivirus a heuristics program that acts much like Kaspersky and compares the types of files that exist on the system at the time of execution.

Intrusion detections work well if you can monitor them from other machines like you can with Samhain, using snort or suricata rulesets.

Boot up scanning systems that detect bios anomolies, (something like this is actually included in avast though I’m not sure how effective it is.)

The author is essentially correct there isn’t a safer operating system outside of the natural profile of attacks per user volume etc.

I’ve been quite fortunate that Linux has remained mostly virus proof etc. I don’t use any apple products anymore but that has little to nothing to do with security, and my windows operating systems have never been compromised to the point of failure.

Though I’ve seen a dramatic difference between it’s level of vulnerability and Linux’s seemingly bulletproof nature.

Thanks that really helps I’m 10 and as a fun thing to do at school I’m learning how to hack things and I’m starting with the easiest to the hardest and I didn’t know which one was harder.

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