Linux vs. Windows: Which is Most Secure?: Page 2

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“Bummer of a birthmark” Many of us no doubt remember Gary Larson’s Far Side comic strip in which two deer are standing around, and one of the deer has a big bulls-eye target on his chest… You get the picture.

Well, in many ways, that’s the sad state of affairs for Windows users these days. It’s true that phishers, virus writers, and other miscreants could target other operating systems, but by and large they don’t.

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As other operating systems gain market share, that’s likely change, but by my thinking, Linux isn’t going to be the next big target. So, until and unless that target “birthmark” finds its way onto another victim, it’s “bummer of a birthmark” time for Windows users. (Hint: the “birthmark” itself is your Outlook/Internet Explorer combination!)

Qualitative score: Windows gets an F while Linux gets an A.

User data confidentiality. All those commands that I grew comfortable with on UNIX (e.g., chmod, chown, umask) for protecting or sharing my data are in Linux and are easy for me to work with. Although the features are relatively on the light side as industrial strength file access control goes, the tools and capabilities are readily available and they work pretty darned well.

While it’s true that Windows has equivalent commands and GUI interfaces for protecting one’s data, I’ve always found them to be awkward at best, and generally defaulting to open (world read-write) unless I go out of my way to lock down my own files.

Now, to be fair, I have to point out that the Windows NTFS file system has a phenomenally powerful set of features when it comes to file/directory access control and auditing. Indeed, when used properly, an NTFS file system can be very tightly configured to the needs of a user or application. The problem is that so few people do it or even know how to do it.

One other factor here is the availability of third-party file and disk encryption products. Here Windows clearly has the upper hand, and I’m noticing more and more corporate laptops employing disk encryption as a standard configuration item. (I guess we can thank the likes of the U.S. Veterans Administration for that.)

Qualitative score: Windows gets a B- while Linux gets a B+.

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