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10/25/2005
01:32 PM
Rob Enderle
Rob Enderle
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Desktop Security And Vista: When Windows Passes Apple And Firefox

Columnist Rob Enderle takes a long, hard look at security across the board--from Microsoft to open source technologies--and seems to like what he sees.

If you go back six years to Windows NT and Windows ME, and take the state of Microsoft security then and compare it to what it is now, and visualize the line of improvement you’d see what looks like a reverse hockey stick: a slow ramp at first with a near vertical ramp over the last few years.

Granted the exposures have increased as well, but arguably not as quickly, and now you can at least argue that Microsoft’s security is adequate in many ways if not exemplary.

Security improvements with Apple haven’t been as pronounced as that platform was already seen as relatively secure as it’s based on UNIX which traded off ease of use for security early on and Apple, wisely, didn’t break the security model.

Firefox was largely protected by its obscurity, few used it and, at least initially, those taking advantage of exploits seemed more interested in making a statement than in getting access to personal information. That has clearly changed with the focus of many of the most damaging attacks now focused on identity theft and the criminals are now targeting both Apple and Firefox.

Symantec: Firefox and Apple Less Secure

As reported in news, Symantec has taken the formal position that Firefox is less secure today and OSX may be less secure in the future as attacks against those two products are projected to significantly increase over the next few years.

The security vendor pointed out that there may, in fact, be a focus on OSX users and called out the OSX/Weapox as a potential example of that. Our sense is that this is because, as a group, Apple users are generally more affluent then your average PC user.

Apple users generally don’t use security products and, since they haven’t had the security problems in the past, they are likely more vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks (phishing for instance) that Windows users are now wearier of due to experience. The combination of wealth and vulnerability apparently isn’t lost on the criminal element.

Firefox users simply don’t have the level of aggressive patch protection provided by Microsoft and many took the Firefox browser because they mistakenly thought it was a security product. As a result they probably don’t have levels of security they need.

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