Internet

10/07/2015

Mac vs. PC: Which is more secure?

Man working on the laptop at home

For many years, it was a commonly held belief that Mac operating systems were more secure than PCs running a Windows OS. But how true is that really? The recent FREAK attack SSL/TLS vulnerability has stirred up the conversation again, especially since FreakAttack reports that 11.8 percent of all HTTPS servers are still vulnerable as of June 26th of this year. With that in mind, here’s a look at how the two compare when it comes to security and response:

Mac vs. Windows

When discussing which platform is more vulnerable to cyberattacks, the problem isn’t as simple as it may appear. First off, most experts agree that Macs have more theoretical vulnerabilities than machines running Windows. In fact, GFI reports that the Mac OS X had 147 known vulnerabilities in 2014, compared to Microsoft Windows 7′s mere 36. Despite that fact, Macs are attacked far less often. Part of this is because Macs are simply used less, which means that statistically they make up a much smaller portion of the attack sample group and are less likely to have malware created specifically for their operating systems.

When the sample is corrected, however, an interesting outcome emerges. CNET reports that while user perceptions tend to be that Macs are safer, the reality is that Mac users are victims of cyberattacks just as often as PC users. However, many Mac users don’t believe they need antivirus or antimalware software simply because they use a Mac, which was a problem in the case of the Flashback Trojan virus that attacked Mac OS X. Education about malware and its dangers is an important part of what developers must do with their end users, claims Microsoft’s TechNet. This is currently one of the greatest weaknesses in Mac’s defenses because the marketing-created perception is working against its security-based reality.

Response Time

There is no perfect defense. At some point, a virus or other security-threat emerges for every platform and developers must rush to fix the problem. How quickly developers respond is a key component of their overall security rating. For example, the Apple patch for the aforementioned Flashback Trojan took nearly two months to be released and distributed, and even then it was only available for consumers using OS X Snow Leopard or Lion. If a company takes months to stem a malware infection, then it really doesn’t matter what its initial defenses were.

In stark contrast, the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) processes nearly 150,000 emails a year regarding security threats and maintains timely updates to control emerging security risks, explains Microsoft’s TechNet. The MSRC has a proven track record of quickly dealing with worldwide security risks to the Windows OS.

In Conclusion

In the end, both systems require user input to truly be secure. Windows may have a faster response time and Mac may have a smaller target profile, but neither of these facts matter much if users fall for phishing scams. Education about current and potential threats and security through antivirus software are the first steps that each individual user must take toward security. Users shouldn’t click on every link that is emailed to them, and they must be aware of unknown or unverified senders, advises LifeLock. Caution and common sense are the first and best lines of defense.






 
 

 
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