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Computer security - John C. Kirk — LiveJournal

Jan. 31st, 2007

03:24 pm - Computer security

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Date:January 31st, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what the situation is regarding Windows Vista, but here's my threepence-halfpenny:

I believe that, out of the box, for the average user, a Mac is more secure than a Windows PC by default. This is based mainly on the experiences of people I know who have had their Windows PCs infested with spyware/adware and viruses withing days of turning them on and connecting them to the Internet. Mac people (novices too) that I know have managed fine for years without contracting a single malicious software infection, and without the need to install any ad-blocking, anti-virus or anti-spyware software.

Some of this security comes through obscurity - there are far more Windows PCs out there so people devote a lot of their efforts to exploiting them for criminal gains. However, publishing exploits for the Mac has become a popular sport of late, and yet there is no working code in the wild infecting anything. There have been security holes (and still are), but none of these has gone beyond proof of concept. Most of them require you to enter your admin password to authorise installation of the exploit code. Many of them can be prevented by setting a single checkbox to 0 in a preferences panel.

Month of Apple Bugs is a case in point - a group of people trying to point out security flaws in Mac OS at a rate of one a day. Unfortunately many of their bugs are in third party shareware rather than the Mac OS itself. Also, they have rather unethically decided to release their bugs (and example exploit code) to the public before telling the companies in question. It's just polite to do that first isn't it? None of these bugs has led to a maliciously exploited machine that I've heard of in the Mac press.

Finally, Mac OS X is based on (I did say based on before the pedants attack) a solid foundation of proven UNIX technologies. The inherent security of these systems is pretty good, and constantly monitored by the open source community who can get patches out a hell of a lot faster than Big Business does. Now we just need to persuade Apple to package the patches and realease the damn things every now and then :-)
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