Why Windows is safer than the Mac

The code quality is found to be much better overall in Vista

Mac users have long gloated that the Mac OS is safer than Windows. The gloating should stop: There's plenty of recent evidence that Vista is, in fact, a safer operating system than Mac OS X.

The most public piece of evidence is the recent "Pwn to Own" challenge, in which security pros were issued the challenge of trying to break into three laptops, a Mac, a PC laptop running Vista SP1, and a laptop running Ubuntu.

The first to fall was the Mac -- and it took a grand total of less than two minutes for security researcher Charlie Miller to break in.

Miller targeted the Mac for a simple reason --- breaking in was like taking candy from a baby.

"It was the easiest one of the three," he said. "We wanted to spend as little time as possible coming up with an exploit, so we picked Mac OS X."

More than a day later, hackers were still trying to break into the Vista machine. It was cracked only when the organizers of the challenge changed the rules and made the machine easier to break into, by adding a variety of third-party applications, including Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, Firefox, and Skype. A vulnerability in the Flash Player led to the successful break-in. The Ubuntu machine was never successfully breached.

This latest faceoff only confirms what security researcher Dino Dai Zovi noted a year ago, when he successfully broke into a Mac in a previous version of this year's security challenge. In an interview, he had this to say when asked whether Mac OS X or Vista is more secure:

I have found the code quality, at least in terms of security, to be much better overall in Vista than Mac OS X 10.4. It is obvious from observing affected components in security patches that Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) has resulted in fewer vulnerabilities in newly-written code. I hope that more software vendors follow their lead in developing proactive software security development methodologies.

Here's more evidence that the Mac is less safe than PCs: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology researchers found that Apple patches vulnerabilities slower than does Microsoft. Researcher Stefan Frei said that "the number of unpatched vulnerabilities are higher at Apple" than at Microsoft.

There's other evidence that the Mac is far from safe as well, including the recent release of a Mac Trojan, called Troj/MacSwp-B. Sophos says the Trojan, "tries to scare Mac users into purchasing unnecessary software by claiming that privacy issues have been discovered on the computer."

The upshot in all this? If you want a safer machine, get rid of your Mac and get a Vista PC.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Preston Gralla

Preston Gralla

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?