Security

Security is a good thing, whether rock climbing or using a computer.

If you have ever seen The Blue Screen of Death, or felt the panic when you realized your Windows computer had been infiltrated by a trojan horse, or if a virus has deleted important files that took you hours of hard work to create, you know that computer security is not an abstract issue.

Security problems have plagued Microsoft Windows to such a degree that Bill Gates has told company employees that security must become the “highest priority” for Microsoft. Unfortunately, his message to the troops was delivered more than four years ago, and security is still a huge problem for Windows users.

Many Windows users have been living with security problems for so long that they have come to consider them an expected annoyance, the price they pay for gaining the benefits of using their computers. But those annoyances add up. When your computer is rendered unusable because of malware, you have to either attempt to deal with the problem yourself or rely on someone else to fix it. Either way, precious time that you could be spending in study or catching a bit of relaxation is now gone. If you’re not able to fix the problem yourself, your hardware vendor may or may not be able to fix it for you, and depending on your warranty, you may also have to shell out some money. If you’re like me, you don’t exactly have stacks of Benjamins stacked up and ready for such contingencies.

Many Windows Users Are Switching to the Mac Because of Security

Arguments about whether the Macintosh is really more secure than Windows have been going on for years, but technical analyses of both operating systems tend to place the emphasis in the wrong place. Yes, Mac OS X relies on UNIX security underpinnings and has inherent advantages over the Windows XP security model. Yes, Microsoft has been making some progress in improving Windows.

However, real world use is the true test of security. If Windows is theoretically secure, but you still have to hassle with malware all the time, it’s not really secure, is it? Perhaps that distinction between theoretical and actual security is what is pushing so many Windows users to the Mac. Consider the case of self-confessed “PC bigot” and security consultant Winn Schwartau, who has chronicled his switch to Macintosh. It is also worth noting that world-renowned security expert Bruce Schneier uses a Mac, and recommends that users avoid using Windows.

Respected computer technology columnist Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal penned a thorough primer on how to make a Windows computer more secure, then concluded with this: “… if you’re totally fed up with the security crisis but want to continue using your computer for common tasks, consider dumping Windows altogether and switching to Apple’s Macintosh.”

The Future of Windows Security and Macintosh Security

Microsoft’s Windows Vista took more than five years to develop, and finally shipped to consumers in late January, 2007.
Frequently Windows security apologists point to Vista, declaring that it will vault Microsoft ahead of Apple in the security game. However, Vista is still new and untested out in the wild. Undoubtedly Vista represents a move forward for Windows security, but it still suffers from typical Microsoft annoyances that may actually wind up making it less secure, as users route around the warning signs Microsoft inartfully puts in their way.

Mac Users Need to Remain Vigilant About Security

While the Mac provides a more secure computing environment than Windows, it is wise not to get too smug about security. As Mac software developer John Gruber points out, the Mac’s security advantages stem in part from the attitde of the Macintosh community. Mac users have thus far refused to allow Apple to get away with the kind of slipshod security practices that Microsoft has perpetrated for years. We shouldn’t be so busy promoting the virtues of Macintosh security that we allow Apple to let up on security.

Finally, Macs are not invulnerable to all forms of attack. If you want the straight, unvarnished information on the latest Mac security threats and how to deal with them, check out Secure Mac, which is run by a Mac security consulting firm.

Photo Credits

The climbing photo on this page was modified from “Mosquetão a vista!!!!”, which was created by lpallo09 and can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/groundzero/97679390/. It is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

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