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Security Firm Says Mac OS X & BSD Least Breached Servers In Last 12 Months

Security Firm Says Mac OS X & BSD Least Breached Servers In Last 12 Months

by , 12:00 PM EDT, September 17th, 2003

Security is an issue of concern to many people of late. The Mac Observer has recently published many stories on both the security problems of Windows and the relative lack of security problems for Mac OS X. A new study released by UK security firm mi2g is showing once again that the Mac platform is among the most secure platforms on the market. Last year, the firm released figures showing the Mac platform to have had the fewest vulnerabilities announced, and to have suffered the fewest attacks through October of 2002.

Today, the firm has released a new study that says BSD and Mac OS X servers together suffered the fewest security breaches during the last 12 months. This study was focused on servers, as opposed to general computer use, where Apple does not have as much of a presences as it does in the desktop market. Still, the study showed that servers running all versions of the Mac OS suffered just 0.13% of attacks during the last 12 months (255 out of a sample of 197,488). The press release from mi2g:

A recent study by mi2g reveals that BSD may be living up to its reputation of being one of the most secure operating systems available at present.  The results from the study show that Apple customers running Apple Mac OS X, an implementation of BSD, appear also to benefit from the operating system's track record.

Out of a total sample of 197,488 successful and independently verifiable overt digital attacks against online servers worldwide recorded by the mi2g SIPS database over the last twelve months the least breached Operating System (OS) was BSD including BSD/OS, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Mac OS X which together recorded just 6,278, i.e., 3.2% successful hacker attacks.  All versions of Mac OS recorded just 255 online attacks against themselves, i.e., less than 0.13%.

All flavours of Microsoft Windows Servers recorded 68,398 online server breaches, i.e., 34.6%.  However, Windows Server 2003 recorded just 178 attacks against itself, i.e., less than 0.09%.  These numbers do not include malware - virus and worm - breaches.  The top ten virus and worms of all time have all targeted Microsoft software including the recent Sobig, which was the most economically damaging malware on record according to mi2g Intelligence Unit data.

Linux, including Debian, Mandrake, Red Hat, SCO and Suse distributions, recorded 105,848 breaches, i.e., 53.6%.  The high number of attacks against Linux may be a result of a greater market share within the online server market.

The precise market share of each operating system within the online server market is difficult to ascertain because of licensed versus non-licensed versions currently deployed.  Various surveys reveal remarkably different numbers.  All surveys are agreed that the most main stream operating systems deployed in the server market at present are BSD, Linux and Microsoft Windows.

You can find more information on mi2g at the company's Web site. The full report on which today's announcement is based will be released on October 1st of this year.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Unfortunately, we don't have market share numbers for Mac servers, but it's most likely higher than 0.13%, which means once again that this is not merely an issue of Security Through Obscurity (STO). STO is the reason many people, especially anti-Mac partisans and Microsoft apologists, like to offer for why there are fewer security issues for the Mac than Windows, or even Linux, but the numbers stubbornly refuse to back that up. As we have said before, there's enough status in the hacker/cracker community in being able to claim you cracked a Mac that more than offsets the lack of Mac OS X market share.

In the meanwhile, however, BSD certainly has a lot of the server market. As mi2g said in the press release, it is one of the top three server OSes, though we'll specifically say it is most likely the third ranked of those three. Despite that, however, the combined BSD variants still suffered just 3.2% of the successful hacker attacks in the last 12 months. Certainly there is no STO in that figure.

This study should be used by Apple to help sell Mac server solutions to corporate and government installations. As concerns about security grows, Apple potentially has an enormous weapon for its arsenal in attacking these markets. It just remains to be seen if the company can capitalize on that weapon.

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