Windows Security Vs Mac Security: Is Mac a more secure OS than Windows?

The debate of which is more secure among a Mac and PC has been going on since their inception. Now this debate has been revived again due to the recent news regarding the spread of MacDefender and MacGuard Trojans. Similar to the Fake Security Essentials for Windows, the Mac Defender makes the user believe that his system has been infected and persuades the user to download a Trojan masquerading as an antivirus.

Now this brings us back to our question – Is Mac a more secure OS than Windows?

While Mac supporters vociferously point at the fact that Macs have far less malware than Windows, Windows users attribute that to the wider usage of Windows which makes it a more profitable target by the hackers. Windows OS becomes a very attractive target by virtue of the sheer large number of Windows users.

But is the number of malware the only criteria of an operating system being more secure?

There might be less overall probability of a Mac getting infected than Windows but it does not mean that Mac is more secure. In fact Mac has been hacked in less than a minute in Pwn2Own and Charlie Miller (who hacked the MacBook Air in Pwn2Own) claims that OS X Snow Leopard is more vulnerable to attack than Microsoft Windows for lacking full Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) which is present in Windows since Vista. ASLR defends against the buffer overrun exploits. Each time you boot Windows, the system code is loaded into different locations of the memory. This seemingly simple change thwarts a class of well-known attacks in which the exploit code attempts to call a system function from a known location.

Since both of their underlying code is written by humans there will always be bugs and vulnerabilities that the hackers will take advantage of. Since PC is the most used OS it is more prone to attacks and that necessarily doesn’t mean that it is less secure. The fact is Microsoft has always been more serious about security than Apple or at least they have to. This can be seen clearly from how they react to such vulnerabilities. While Microsoft reacts quickly and releases updates every month with faster releases for emergency updates, Apple took a more colder approach with the response that the underlying UNIX is not prone to viruses. Apple had allegedly asked their support reps not to acknowledge or help customers remove the Mac Defender malware. But they indeed released an update against the Mac Defender, but only after a big backlash from blogosphere. Albeit late, Apple is also recommending that Mac users use an antivirus now.

If you ask me, security of an Operating System is relative. It depends on the user and his usage pattern. The Windows ecosystem is open, unlike the Mac which is closed, as a result of which there are a lot of freeware available for Windows. Consequently the chances of installing rogues tend to increase. A normal less tech savvy user who visits all sorts of sites and downloads and installs everything without checking its authenticity, whether he uses a Windows PC or Mac is more susceptible of getting infected than a more tech savvy user with good computing behaviour/habits.

Still today, in many parts of the world, people use un-patched pirated Windows… and when they their machine gets infected, they blame Windows. This does not happen for a Mac!

Now what exactly is a good computing behaviour?

The term has a scope of large number of interpretations. But generally speaking it includes but is not limited to using a good and updated security solution, keeping your OS and other software up to date, verifying authenticity of a program before installing (a simple Google search will do) and of course browsing safely.

Now this doesn’t make you immune to malware as you can be infected by just visiting a code injected but otherwise straightforward webpage. But it gives you an added layer of security irrespective of the platform you are using.

Both Windows and Mac have their respective security features such as the UAC, DEP etc. But it is up to the end user to make sure that he/she stays safe using the provided features. Unless the user takes initiative to stay safe, no Operating System can guarantee a secure environment.

To sum up what I’m saying is that it isn’t the underlying architecture that is the most important factor (although it is important) affecting security  but it is the user behaviour that is the most important factor in deciding whether you are secure or not.

What do you – the Windows or the Mac user – think of this!?

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Posted by on , in Category Security with Tags
Currently pursuing Bachelors in Electronics, the author Nithin Ramesh is a technology blogger. Apart from technology his other interests include cricket and rock music.


  1. asfand sheikh

    no questions mac is more power full and more secure

  2. Ed

    @asfand sheikh : Did you not just read the article above? LOL

    You go ahead and keep believing that while you surf the web on your over priced and under protected machine …LMAO!

  3. deco

    Sempre pensei assim que o melhor anti-vírus é o próprio USUÁRIO!!! Não adianta de nada se ele tiver o melhor a guardião do seu pc se ele não verificar aonde está navegando, onde está clicando, permitindo assim o malware de se instalar!!!

  4. Mac is only safe as its not as much popular and wide spread as windows…. after some years, Mac viruses would be as common as windows revealing how much secure it actually is .

  5. Any OS is only as safe as its user base. For but one example, my experience over the years has led me to believe that the Windows user base embraces a much wider range of intellectual abilities… on both ends of the spectrum. Windows has both more full-on idiots using it and more absolute geniuses using it than the Mac OS X world and a LOT of the type of users that are the primary Mac users: average to one standard deviation above the norm users who haven’t a clue what their computers are doing and who merrily plug along in their cluelessness and carelessness. That the Windows base has been the largest target of malware is as obvious as a kick in the head, but the simple fact that the vast majority of Mac OS X users, made up of the same intellectual class as the vast majority of Windows users (slightly above average intellectually and clueless and careless in their computing habits) and _falsely_ believing in both their own superiority and in Apples (past?) lies about their security are ripe for picking.

    I expect Mac OS X users _in general_ to remain in denial for quite some time to come.

    The real ‘nix world (Linux and real, not Mac OS X straitjacketed, Unix) is usually mostly a standard deviation or above in terms of users who are much, much more likely to actually have a good idea what their computers are doing and be aware of any risk factors in their usage patterns.

  6. Mark

    Your OS’s security means nothing if you are already paying for top-of-the-line security software like McAfee or Norton.

  7. Kanzul Jebul

    mac user bloody show off ALWAYS

  8. TJay75

    That Mac’s are more secure because of their proprietary construction is really a misnomer. It in fact makes Apple computers more vulnerable because they remove software and hardware customization from the equation—-thus forcing users to run a system with limited options. Mac’s are still just as prone to Zero-day attacks and APT’s as a PC is, the difference between the two as far as security is concerned, is you have infinitely more control over system internals with a pc than you do with a mac—-thus permitting a greater potential for system hardening and security software layering.

    Just because you get everything from one company doesn’t automatically make it a safer option!

    For all those whom are still asleep in Apple Mac’s La La Dream world—it’s time to wake up to reality——-any computer connected to the net is vulnerable!——There are no exceptions to this rule, just like there is no perfect pc nor mac—and why is that?—because no human is perfect. But when one truthfully discerns all variables for each platform, only then does it become obvious which has greater potential to be more secure and powerful. Apple Mac’s only wish they could do that.

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