Linux vs Windows: Security

Dennis Faas's picture

Viruses, Trojans, adware, and Spyware... MS Windows lets all these enter your computer easily. In a recent report I read, the average time before a Windows PC connected to the Internet (with Service Pack 2 installed) gets infected in about 40 minutes time (and as little as 30 seconds).

And on top of that, adequate protection isn't always enough. Even with a firewall, antivirus, antiSpyware software, plus a more secure web browser and email client (such as Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird instead of Internet Explorer and MS Outlook), you'll still need to pray that pirates aren't smart enough to overcome.

And what about security flaws in the operating system? Microsoft often takes weeks to make an update available. On the other hand, you can install Linux and sleep soundly -- and stop worrying about it.

Open Source Versus Closed Source

As I have already discussed in my previous posting, Open Source software (e.g. Linux) has more eyes to check the code. Any programmer is welcome to download and inspect code, and repair any security flaws.

Comparatively, the only qualified individuals allowed to look at Windows source code are those who are working directly for Microsoft. In terms of manpower: the Linux community has hundreds of thousands of people -- maybe millions -- looking for security flaws, versus a few thousand that work for Microsoft. That makes a big difference!

On top of that, where the Microsoft developers are dedicated to helping the company make money and not necessarily a better product, the developers of Open Source Software are dedicated to the product. They want to make the software better for the joy of it.

In actuality, it isn't matter of how many flaws an operating system has, versus others. For example: if there are undiscovered flaws of a serious nature or are minor in that they don't compromise an important part of the system, hackers often won't do much damage until they find them. It is really a matter of how fast a security flaw can be solved once it has been discovered.

In the Linux World, updates typically usually appear within a few days, and in some cases, a few hours after an exploit has been discovered. And, due to the amount of rigorous testing, checking, and even more testing the software becomes available to the public, patches are fairly infrequent. Most of the time, any updates applied are for the addition of new features to the various effected software packages.

Compared to the Linux Community, Microsoft lacks in manpower. Typically, MS releases a flock of security patches a month or more after flaws have been discovered. And quite often, updates to Microsoft products don't always fix the flaws. That gives more than enough for pirates to do whatever they want with your computer.

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