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Apple Fanboy vs. Apple Curmudgeon Wars, Part 204,893…

October 29, 2010

OK, might as well get this one started off with a bang, so that the flame comments can begin.  Last week, I was quoted in an article on CIO Insight, regarding my opinion on the security of web browsing on Macs, versus traditional PC”s.  Having made my good friends who are Mac users livid at my post, I thought I’d clarify my statement a bit, and let it be known that my opinion is backed solely by good, old-fashioned logic, reason, and rationality, and is in no way an anti-Apple diatribe.  So, let’s get started, shall we?

Is Mac OSX inherently safer that Windows? No, it isn’t. Mac OSX is based on BSD, a complex, UNIX-like operating system that is no less immune to hacks as Windows is.  The key differences:

  • At this specific point in time, Windows systems are more popular in a business environment (and have been for about 20 years now), and consequently, hackers have targeted them relentlessly in order to exploit common holes to find business data (like credit card info, healthcare data, etc. – the kind of stuff they can monetize).  So I would say that Windows simply has more realized vulnerabilities than Mac OSX.
  • There are plenty of documented holes in Mac OSX, as well as (and more importantly) Mac software from third-parties (e.g., Adobe).  Remember that the vulnerability doesn’t have to exist in the OS to cause damage – the apps can easily be exploited, too.  Great place to go to research platform-specific bugs is U.S. CERT (http://www.us-cert.gov).
  • Just because a vulnerability has been discovered, doesn’t mean the vendor is obliged to fix it right away.  While Microsoft has had a “patch Tuesday” release cycle in place for some time now, Apple has a tendency to wait until a whole bunch of vulnerabilities exist, and then release a single, monolithic patch (as they did in 10/2009, which fixed nomerous vulnerabilities).  In the meantime, where no patch exists, those systems are vulnerable.
  • As Apple continues its transformation from a computer company to a consumer electronics company, it’s going to have to deal with all the new vulnerabilities that will pop up in mobile OS devices: iPads and iPhones are only loosely based on the Mac OSX kernel, and a lot of issues will be found as time goes on.  Of course, that’s not just an Apple problem – HP’s upcoming refresh of the Palm OS, Microsoft’s Windows 7 Mobile, etc., will all likely experience this issue.

Finally, for the record, I’m neither a fanboy nor a hater of Apple; I love my Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod).  However, I also have been doing this for a while, and consequently, I don’t readily fall for vendor FUD like “Apple is safer than Windows!”.  And if Apple didn’t so vociferously use that FUD as a marketing tool, I wouldn’t be so eager to poke holes in it.  Just sayin’…

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