January 21st 2003
By Mike Flaminio
c|net Asia quotes a report from the Aberdeen Group which argues that its study shows Microsoft's Windows does not necessarily pose the greatest security risk for computer systems. The study suggests that "Unix- and Linux-based systems are just as vulnerable to viruses, Trojan horses, and worms."
Aberdeen bases its conclusions on security advisories regarding viruses and trojan horses which affected Windows, Linux and other Unix systems in 2001 and for the first ten months of 2002. Included in the study is Apple's OS X; the report states that OS X is "becoming vulnerable now that it is fielding an operating system with embedded Internet protocols and Unix utilities."
The Aberdeen Report is available free of charge to those who register at the site.
Analysis: We can all dispute the methodology and interpretation of the statistical data, but it's worth noting that Apple ships OS X with vital security functions turned off by default. Kudos to Cupertino. I can't comment on whether this is the case with the various Linux distros. But in OS X's case, the average user is unlikely to switch them on.
But the real vulnerability of Windows lies not in its enormous user base [although that in itself makes it a tempting target], but in its applications. How many of problems originated from Outlook? From Word's macro language? You just don't seem to get these problems with Eudora or, much less, Mail. How about Word macro viruses generally? Sure, you could write a malicious AppleScript, attach it to an email and send it to a Mac user, but, somehow, people don't. Seems like Mac programmers have better things to do with their talents.