Network World: Apple’s Mac OS X is significantly more secure than Windows

“Recently there has been a growth industry in pundits whining about the security of the Apple Mac OS X operating system. To read some of the coverage, you would think someone deciding to use OS X instead of Windows would have to be dumber than a fence post. Methinks the security worries are rather misplaced and may be the result of hyperventilating, nontechnical reporters and some gloating on the part of Windows users,” Scott Bradner writes for Network World. “One would have to be dumber than a fence post to assert any set of software as complex as a computer operating system and all of its application programs could ever be totally secure. Programs are created by programmers, most of whom are human and therefore unlikely to generate perfect, bug-free code. Bugs in software design or implementation are what lead to security vulnerabilities.”

“But that said, there is no reason to think most of OS X should be as subject to vulnerabilities as is most of Windows. Most of OS X, including most of its more than 1,000 Unix applications, are from open source BSD Unix and the GNU Project, both of which have been beaten on by researchers and hackers for years (and fixed when problems have been found). This process is more likely to result in secure code than any private, corporate process such as Microsoft uses, where the code has had nowhere near as many eyes reviewing it,” Bradner writes. “Sometimes public access to source code means a hacker finds something to exploit. It also means exploits can be quickly fixed.”

“Then why the increased buzz about OS X security? (Note that even though the buzz has increased, it is still a whisper compared with discussions about Windows security: A search on Google News, for example, returns 64 hits for OSX + security and 7,300 hits for Windows + security),” Bradner writes. “I expect a major reason is there is a lot of buzz about OS X and Apple these days; too many reporters feel just writing about good news is not good for their careers, so they feel they have to come up with something to complain about… OS X is not going to be vulnerability-free, but I do expect it to show significantly fewer vulnerabilities than Windows has. That does not mean OS X users can ignore security – at the very least, enable the built-in personal firewall – but it does mean you should not stay with Windows because you think it will be safer.”

[Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University’s University Information Systems.]

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Bob K.” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: An excellent article, with which we wholeheartedly agree. Email the link to anyone who seems really excited about any of the current “Mac OS X has viruses!” FUD pieces floating around right now. May Bradner’s common sense truth knock them back into reality.

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34 Comments

  1. OS X defaults with all ports closed to traffic and not listening. What will the firewall do if there is no traffic going through the ports?

    Activate the firewall has a meaning only if you start opening ports around, otherwise it is just consuming CPU cycles for nothing, really.

    And if OS X ports are not listening, how a virus could infect and spread?

    hint.. hint..

  2. Follow these simple guidelines until the exploits are patched

    Do not visit untrusted web sites, and do not open ZIP archives or images originating from untrusted sources. Do not click on suspicious links in emails and posts.

    Driveby exploits can be run on your Mac.

    1: Click on legitimate looking link.

    2: Your browser is sent to a malicious site which runs exploit code in a flash.

    3: Your then routed to the legitimate site.

    What you should do is paste the legitimate url into your web browser instead. You can also squint at the true url at the bottom of your Safari window as you mouse over a link or image.

    Stay away from porn sites and other questionable sites, even some forums as moderators and webmasters are having their fun rooting Mac’s.

  3. Apple’s Mac OS X is significantly more secure than Windows

    It is, but that significant difference is closing very rapidly. At the current pace, Mac OS X will be as insecure as Windows within a few months.

    Hackers are finding a wealth of inexperienced computers users on our platform to exploit.

  4. Actually, MDN, I don’t think you do agree with the author. he says that all software in vulnerable to exploits, since it’s written by humans, and humans are flawed. He goes on to say that OS X is more secure because it’s been hammered by testers more often than Windows, but he does not say that it’s exploit-free.

    I do believe that you guys think OS X really is exploit-free. Does that make you dumber than a fence-post? The day will come when OS X is hit with a serious exploit of one sort or another. It will (hopefully) never be as bad as Windows has been, but it will have its fair share of exposed vulnerabilities. After all, it’s updated all the time, and it’s written by mere mortals (yes, Apple is populated by mortals, not gods).

  5. “closing very rapidly”. Good stuff you are smoking LOL

    “current pace”… since when a pseudo-technical writer spouting nonsense about computer security means an OS is becoming vulnerable?

    OS X is a FreeBSD derivation with Mach-O kernel. FreeBSD has stellar record vs security robustness, fine tuned since ages.

    Al Quesadea: you deserve the TROLL of the month award.

  6. but Windows is a one-of-a-kind. Some things are only possible on Windows. No OS share its *design*.

    uppphhffffffffufffoffffoffffffufff DESIGN….

    HUHHUHAHAHAHAHUEHHEEHUHAHUAHHAHAHAH

    sorry… could not resist: design and Windows in one statement…

    UHHAHHAHAHUHAHOAHHEHAHAHAHHE

  7. hairbo,

    Just because you want so badly for it to be so, doesn’t make it so: MDN never said anything like what you apparently wish they had been saying.

    MDN just says it like it is, like they always have: Mac OS X is vastly more secure than Windows.

    Even a moron in a hurry knows that fact.

  8. I don’t get it, why are all the “news” sites circulating stories just now about trojans and vulnerabilities that are the exact same trojans and vulnerabilities that they got all frothy over in mid-February, and have since been fixed? There has to be a PR firm behind this.

  9. Al Quesadea: OS X has a long, long, long way to go before there are hundreds of thousands of actively circulating viruses, trojans and spyware for the platform. At the current pace, assuming Windows is finally at this point in time secure and never has another virus, at its current pace of about one piece of malware every three months, OS X should catch up to Windows’ level of insecurity in about 300,000 years.

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