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  • Is Mac OS X Really Safer Than Windows?


    Google's decision to ban Windows on its corporate PCs - reported in the Financial Times yesterday and reverberating around the blogosphere ever since - is reopening an old and fractious debate: is Mac OS X actually safer than Windows? Google's decision was reportedly based on security concerns in the wake of the Chinese hack that knocked out the company's servers for a day. Google is refusing comment, saying only that "we do not comment on specific operational matters."

    In December of last year, Google came under what they referred to in a blog posting as "a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property." The attack was found to involve nearly a dozen pieces of malware and several levels of encryption that the hackers used to hide inside Google's network. A significant "vector," or means of carrying the malware into the network core, involved a hole in IE6. "Based upon our investigations," Mike Reavey, Microsoft's director of security response wrote in a Security Advisory after the attack, "we have determined that Internet Explorer was one of the vectors used in targeted and sophisticated attacks against Google."

    Though Google is keeping mum, many observers are concluding that the company has concluded that Windows is too insecure, and is requiring CIO (corporate information officer)-level approval before letting anyone keep their Windows box. New users get a choice between Mac OS X or Linux, with most opting for a Mac. According to the FT story, one employee is quoted as saying "Linux is open source and we feel good about it," adding: "Microsoft we donít feel so good about."

    The rain-on-your-wedding-day irony of Google users flocking to its arch-nemesis Apple's OS is lost on few pundits and Apple fanbois. But is the OS more secure by its very nature? Many security experts disagree. Charlie Miller, back-to-back-to-back winner of the Pwn2Own competition, is one of them, and he speaks from experience. "Hacking into Macs is so much easier," he told ZDNet's Ryan Naraine. "You donít have to jump through hoops and deal with all the anti-exploit mitigations youíd find in Windows." And for ten-thousand-spoons-when-all-you-need-is-a-knife, it's hard to beat Intego releasing a new Mac security warning on the same day the Google news broke.

    Jonny Evans, writing for Computerworld, strikes what is probably the best balance between fanboi-ism and Mac-phobia: he points out that over-reliance on one operating system - any OS - is an invitation to disaster. In other words, even in the very unlikely case that Mac OS X or Linux becomes as ubiquitous as Windows, we'd be in the same place. Monoculture is dangerous.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Is Mac OS X Really Safer Than Windows? started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 75 Comments
    1. moon#pie's Avatar
      moon#pie -
      macs can get viruses. But the majority of the crowd who would get said viruses run windows. Infect 1 million, or 100 million. hmmmmm
    1. awesomeSlayer's Avatar
      awesomeSlayer -
      Yes...for now.

      There isn't a lot of virus for Mac OS X, but it is still vulnerable to them.
    1. iphnblues's Avatar
      iphnblues -
      the reason there are so many windows viruses compared to mac is because windows makes up almost all of the market in my eyes there is no real reason for people to hack macs but if google changes to just mac os then that might be all the reason people need to focus there work on mac i read an article the other day about a worm that got on the mac through im and would then send its self out to everyone in the buddys list so no its not the superman os like everyone thinks i myself kinda cant wait to see the smugness wiped from mac users face when they to are buying a $60 virus program but hey thats just me
    1. moon#pie's Avatar
      moon#pie -
      Yep. Exacitacily!
    1. staterunner180's Avatar
      staterunner180 -
      Its not that Mac is safer then Windows, its just there aren't as many people searching for holes and creating viruses for OS X. Its the same in Linux, I prefer Ubuntu 10.04 over Windows for many reasons, but one of the biggest is there just aren't as many people trying to hack Linux or Mac computers as there are people trying to invade your Windows box. Plus its open-source which is really nice. I love not paying for software
    1. battlecrushr's Avatar
      battlecrushr -
      Quote Originally Posted by staterunner180 View Post
      Its not that Mac is safer then Windows, its just there aren't as many people searching for holes and creating viruses for OS X. Its the same in Linux, I prefer Ubuntu 10.04 over Windows for many reasons, but one of the biggest is there just aren't as many people trying to hack Linux or Mac computers as there are people trying to invade your Windows box. Plus its open-source which is really nice. I love not paying for software
      Quote Originally Posted by iphnblues View Post
      the reason there are so many windows viruses compared to mac is because windows makes up almost all of the market in my eyes there is no real reason for people to hack macs but if google changes to just mac os then that might be all the reason people need to focus there work on mac i read an article the other day about a worm that got on the mac through im and would then send its self out to everyone in the buddys list so no its not the superman os like everyone thinks i myself kinda cant wait to see the smugness wiped from mac users face when they to are buying a $60 virus program but hey thats just me
      yep all true
    1. eZStaR's Avatar
      eZStaR -
      All the comments so far are nonsense. It does not matter if there are more PC's out there, along with people only creating viruses for it. This thread is about if Mac's are actually safer than Windows. There are many variables to consider judging such a statement. The OS's overall code/holes/programs etc. Basic fact is Mac is built on a Unix kernal which is the oldest and one of the safest operating systems.
    1. plcrules's Avatar
      plcrules -
      i have a feeling there is gonna b a lot more virus makers for mac now
    1. Rokesomesmeefer's Avatar
      Rokesomesmeefer -
      Quote Originally Posted by staterunner180 View Post
      ...Plus its open-source which is really nice. I love not paying for software
      Being open-source does not make it free. Why do people continually and incorrectly equate open-source with free?!

      There are many open-source programs that are not free as well as many closed-source programs that are free.
    1. dennder's Avatar
      dennder -
      You guys probably do not differentiate viruses, trojans, rootkits and hacking itself.

      Even pentagon got hacked, so there is no one in the damn world to tell which OS is safer.
      Rootkit is the exploit in the system, so there is no difference again.
      But viruses and trojans, which require user-side interaction... UNIX-like OS' are less prone to virus attacks (Mac OS or Linux does not matter), it is the matter of architecture, cuz unlike in windows, any such software on nix would require root access, which is impossible without user entering root (or sudo) password. Windows, even in Vista/7 does not, while within XP it is enough to be in administrators group any such malware can install by itself, in Vista/7 only UAC saves you from such bull****, and as you all know, it is widely-known to disable the UAC for it is very annoying, which again makes you vulnerable.

      As some expert said some time ago (i don't recall his name), the weakest point in any OS' is in between the monitor and the chair.
    1. iBwizzle's Avatar
      iBwizzle -
      Windows 7 has been good to me! Just keep your stuff back'd up folks...
    1. Rokesomesmeefer's Avatar
      Rokesomesmeefer -
      Quote Originally Posted by eZStaR View Post
      All the comments so far are nonsense. It does not matter if there are more PC's out there, along with people only creating viruses for it. This thread is about if Mac's are actually safer than Windows. There are many variables to consider judging such a statement. The OS's overall code/holes/programs etc. Basic fact is Mac is built on a Unix kernal which is the oldest and one of the safest operating systems.
      A Mac in the hands of 99% of the worlds population is no more safer than a PC with Windows. The biggest threat to any computer's security is the idiot behind the keyboard.

      As long as Mac OS can only be installed on hardware that is overpriced by about 400%, it will never take a larger market share than Windows. As long as Windows has the largest market share, virus/malware writers will continue to target it more than Mac OS or Linux.
    1. eZStaR's Avatar
      eZStaR -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rokesomesmeefer View Post
      A Mac in the hands of 99% of the worlds population is no more safer than a PC with Windows. The biggest threat to any computer's security is the idiot behind the keyboard.

      As long as Mac OS can only be installed on hardware that is overpriced by about 400%, it will never take a larger market share than Windows. As long as Windows has the largest market share, virus/malware writers will continue to target it more than Mac OS or Linux.
      Thats actually what Im talking about. You guys keep comparing market share, more users etc. Doesn't change the fact which OS has better security overall. If you took out the massive amounts of programs for windows, and just judged the whole OS itself, Mac would be superior.

      But I do agree with you about the price. Although windows copied a lot of things off Mac, [Mac came out before windows] only reason windows sold more is because of price alone, nothing more. If mac/OS costed less, it would be leading in market shares with 100% guarantee. Otherwise, until windows gets a real terminal shell, can compile POSIX source and not have a garbage native programming api I will stick to a mac
    1. Atomi's Avatar
      Atomi -
      mac "viruses" are just fuc**** trojan horses that are founded in pirated software. I havent seen a real virus for mac ever.. correct if i am wrong.
    1. iLoveWindows&iPhone's Avatar
      iLoveWindows&iPhone -
      Haha, the irony! Maybe it's just that google hates bing more than the iPhone!
    1. kraziebone's Avatar
      kraziebone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Atomi View Post
      mac "viruses" are just fuc**** trojan horses that are founded in pirated software. I havent seen a real virus for mac ever.. correct if i am wrong.
      "Leap-A" was a virus in OSX but there has been more.
    1. rhekt's Avatar
      rhekt -
      hmmm.
    1. whereswaldo's Avatar
      whereswaldo -
      maybe google should just make their own OS
    1. awesomeSlayer's Avatar
      awesomeSlayer -
      ^They are, but it is based off of Google Chrome and it is for netbooks.

      Quote Originally Posted by Atomi View Post
      mac "viruses" are just fuc**** trojan horses that are founded in pirated software. I havent seen a real virus for mac ever.. correct if i am wrong.
      Well, major of them, but Intego discovered a Mac spyware which is OS X/OpinionSpy which is much like the Windows Spyware.
    1. iMlac's Avatar
      iMlac -
      My hubmle opinion is that the viruses are made for purchasing anti-virus software... Who made those viruses? Why are the viruses mostly made for windows users? I think it's only because windows users are most common users. Bigger community bigger money!!!

      P.S. I've saved my self migrating to a Mac