Vista/7 more secure than Linux and Mac OS X

Vista/7 more secure than Linux and Mac OS X

Summary: Operating system security is always a hotly contended subject, and last week Microsoft amped up the hype by claiming that Windows Vista and the soon-to-be-released 7 is the world's most secure OS, beating both Linux and Mac OS X.

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Operating system security is always a hotly contended subject, and last week Microsoft amped up the hype by claiming that Windows Vista and the soon-to-be-released 7 is the world's most secure OS, beating both Linux and Mac OS X.

Here's what Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner had to say at the MidMarket CIO Summit last week:

Vista today, post-Service Pack 2, which is now in the marketplace, is the safest, most reliable OS we've ever built. It's also the most secure OS on the planet, including Linux and open source and Apple Leopard. It's the safest and most secure OS on the planet today. Everything that we've learned in Vista will be leveraged in Windows 7, but certainly when we broke a lot of the compatibility issues to lock down user account controls, to lock down the ability to manipulate states and all the things, that was a very painful process for us to grow through, but we had to do it. And the reason that Windows 7 will be successful is because of the pain we took on Vista. Because from a compatibility standpoint, if it works on Vista, it will work on Windows 7. If it doesn't work on Vista, it won't work on Windows 7. [emphasis added

[poll id="446"]

The "my OS is better than your OS" debate is usually a pointless exercise because the conclusions are ultimately unsatisfactory. It's a bit like asking whose Mom makes the best apple pie or who is the best driver. Our prejudices get in the way of a logical debate.

However, despite being primarily a Windows user, I can't help but feel that Microsoft's "most secure OS on the planet" statement is rooted more in hyperbole than fact. If Turner had said "most secure Windows OS on the planet" I might have been happy to buy that. But to say that it's more secure than Mac OS X or Linux, gimme a break. All my Windows machines are beefed up with additional body armor in the form of firewalls and antivirus applications, additions that are unnecessary on my Linux or Mac systems.

While I know how to keep my Windows boxes safe from the bad guys, I'm not sure if I could hand my Mac or Linux systems over to bad guys if I wanted to. The critical difference here isn't the OS but the volume of threats facing each one. I'm happy to leave my Mac or Linux boxes unpatched for months, but feel quite vulnerable if my Windows boxes aren't patched by the end of Patch Tuesday, and with good reason. That to me is a critical test in determining whether an OS is secure.

Can the dominant OS ever be the safest OS? I'm not sure it can ever be the safest choice.

Topics: Windows, Apple, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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540 comments
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  • Most secure?

    Time will tell...
    Let's see what it looks like this time next year.
    My bet is it will look like every other Windows O/S; sorta like swiss cheese.
    handydan918@...
    • More people hacking it = looking more like swiss cheese

      Even if it is NOT swiss-cheese. The fact is that Windows IS a lot more secure in Vista and Windows 7 than Linux and OSX.... that is a bottom line TRUTH.

      Even my OSX loving buddy from college had to agree with that, after he saw the security improvements in Windows 7 and said.... "Wait a minute.... why doesn't OSX have this!"
      Lerianis
      • You are wish that wass true.....

        Pleae explain to the rest of us when Windows, Apple, and Linux systems were hacked in a contest, why the linux system was the only survival?

        That's what I thought.....
        linux for me
        • Explanation: Vista wasn't hacked

          <i>Flash</i> was hacked. It was a cross
          platform attack which would have taken down
          Ubuntu as well. According to the hacker.

          In fact, because of the *extra* mitigations and
          defenses which Vista had, the attacker had to
          enlist help from a fellow security researcher.
          He helped used a <i>Java</i> vulnerability as a
          stepping stone for bypassing Vistas extra
          defenses.

          With Ubuntu and OSX the just with the Flash
          vulnerability it would have been game over.

          Only, the security researcher (hacker) had
          prepared a Vista attack, not a OSX or Ubuntu
          attack. So rather than coding his attack over
          from scratch he combined it with another
          attack.

          Note that there was no vulnerability in Vista
          used during that contest. The attackers used a
          <i>Flash</i> and a <i>Java</i> vulnerability.
          3rd party apps. The attackers were impeded by
          Vistas extra defenses.

          Anyway, that was the previous year conntest.
          This year Linux wasn't represented, but the
          successful attackers both, independently,
          confirmed that Vista (and Windows 7 by
          extension) is the hardest OS to crack.
          honeymonster
          • Of course not! The tooth fairy was hacked.

            The hacker managed to gain control of the windows machine, so

            <b>windows was hacked</b>. PERIOD!
            InAction Man
          • No it wasn't...

            Windows was not hacked, flash was hacked. No matter how many times you state otherwise, that is the truth. No OS can protect the user against unsafe apps. The same exploit would have worked on OS X and Linux, they simply chose to do it on Vista...
            jamesrayg
          • Don't be silly James.

            You blame the OS of the machine you're using.
            Charles Norrie
          • Cheap talk . . .

            . . . a windows system was cracked. [b]You[/b] say the same attack would have worked on a Linux machine. I'd like to see that before I believe it. Gaining root-level access to a Linux box is not so easy, and without that, you don't have much.
            sporkfighter
          • Correct

            It is a widely known fact that it is very difficult to hack an OS but it is comparably simple to hack an app especially one such as flash. And the reason this happens more often on windows systems is the simple fact that there are more of them, but, it does happen on linix and mac systems as well and if you rate them by total number of systems of each type they are all about the same as far as vulnerability goes.
            trundor1@...
          • and more to the point...

            Flash runs on top of the OS with Mac, Linux, etc... whereas it is more tightly bound with the OS in Windows. At least that was the answer Macromedia gave when asked why Flash was more responsive in a Windows client than others.

            BTW: The OS was hacked and the entry point was Flash. Sorry :(
            awasson@...
          • Of course not! The tooth fairy was hacked.

            Wow! I didn't know you got a new job. When did you start collecting teeth? ]:)
            MGP2
          • Lerianis says so...

            ...so that must make it so...

            LOL... :D
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • Several Vulns Already

            Win7 has seen several escalation vulns already, and it's not even out of the gate. All the really good ones are being held in secret for use after there's a large enough install base.

            In fact, the changes to security (due to customer complaints) mean that Win7 is likely LESS secure than Vista was. Vista was pretty decent that way.

            Oh, and you can't compare any OS to "Linux" because the security profile for each distribution is completely different.

            OS X, however, has some serious problems and a user base which feels invincible. It's like they're wearing a cross around your neck and thinking it protects them from STDs. I actually believe that Win7 is more secure than that.
            daengbo
          • It's like they are wearing a magic charm.

            That I have to agree with and I can't help think that this is asking for it. There are more than enough Macs to make it worth taking them but so far nobody has but then most crackers are off shore and the Mac market off shore is truly tiny.
            deowll
          • It's like they are wearing a magic charm.

            I think that's a good point -- the majority of these virus and other malware writers are offshore. They're simply not going to spend the extra penny for mac hardware and software when PCs, Windows, etc. can be had for a fraction of the price (a Chinese friend of mine once told me that if you didn't feel like DLing Windows on your own, you can walk down the street and grab an illegal copy for a quarter). And where they're from, every cent saved is huge.
            3DSumoWrestler
          • Invincable? Just not worth the effort.

            [i]OS X, however, has some serious problems and a user base which feels invincible. It's like they're wearing a cross around your neck and thinking it protects them from STDs. I actually believe that Win7 is more secure than that.[/i]

            To some extent, OS X users [b]are[/b] saved by the nature of their OS/user base. Were I to write a worm or virus, Id' want to attack the largest number of machines that are connected to the internet as long as possible. Number one choice would be servers. Maintained mostly by pros, a harder target than the Windows home user's desktop box that's running 7/24, unpatched, with an ignorant yahoo who'll open any attachment, install any "cool" free app.

            OS X? There aren't enough of them and so many are notebooks that aren't up and running all the time. So even if you could, why would you? Too little bang for the effort. (Not that this excuses Apple! They shouldn't rely on such a lame defense.)
            sporkfighter
          • How much self-replicating...

            malware is there for OSX? How many Mac botnets are out there
            spewing forth gigabytes of spam all over the Internet? Apparently,
            so far at least, Macs may be less secure in a hacking contest, but
            are far safer connected to the Internet. Mr. Miller, the winner of
            the hacking contest himself testified that Macs are safer. Also
            there are no self replicating worms, such as the recent Conficker,
            which infects millions of Windows computers including VISTA and
            if there were any out there, perhaps even Windows 7.
            arminw
          • It would help if you'd write in grammatical English

            I can't be bothered to decipher what people are saying, when they don't.
            Charles Norrie
          • Confused

            On the first day of PWN2OWN, OS X was cracked in its pristine state, without any third-party programs. On the second day, common third-party apps were added. The hacker (Milns?) used the Flash vuln + another to escalate. The escalation means that there is a vuln. He was jumping between the Vista and Ubuntu machine to see which he could crack first. The Ubuntu machine didn't ever get cracked. (That doesn't mean that it never would, BTW.)

            That was NOT the previous year's contest. That was the most recent one about OSes. The other recent one you're thinking of was a PWN2OWN browser cracking contest. It had nothing to do with cracking an OS.

            It helps your argument when you understand the facts of what you're trying to argue. Shock. O_o
            daengbo
          • Would've taken Ubuntu?

            Let's see, that's a contest meant to show the vulnerabilities and prove the skills, right?

            Yet nobody took down Linux.

            If I have two cars sitting side by side and pick the locks on one and make the claim that the other one would've been just as easy without proving it, I've just made a claim.

            If I break into one house and claim that the other one would've been just as easy, I've just made a claim.

            The facts point out that Linux was the only OS not hacked. No claims that Windows is harder to crack matter until it's been proven.
            tmsbrdrs