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Is Apple Ten Years Behind In Security?

Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky claims Apple is “10 years behind Microsoft in terms of security.”

Recently, Macs across the world were exposed to a family of malware known as Flashback. The spread of this malware was aided by Apple’s seemingly senseless delay in patching a software flaw that has been known to them since January, the same flaw Microsoft patched within three weeks. By the time it was patched, more than 600,000 Macs had been infected by the malware. Referring to this security failure, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Labs, declared that Apple was “10 years behind Microsoft” when it comes to security.

But is that really a fair comparison? Some say it’s not, that trying to compare Microsoft and Apple when it comes to security is like comparing apples to oranges.

Microsoft learned the importance of security the hard way when Windows XP released. To this day, Windows XP receives more attacks, malware, Trojans, worms, and viruses than any operating system on the market. Shortly after XP released, in January of 2002, Bill Gates issued his famous “Trustworthy Computing” memo to all Microsoft personnel, which sparked a company-wide focus on security. Today, Windows 7, while still not perfect, is far more secure than Windows XP was at the same point of its lifecycle. Instead of trying to outpace the virus writers, Microsoft outsourced the protection from malware and viruses to the antivirus software industry, freeing them up to focus on securing and patching just the operating system. This also allows companies like Oracle and Java to patch their programs without Microsoft’s input.

Apple, though, has a disdain for third-party antivirus software, insisting on patching third-party software security flaws itself. Without any transparency in their security responses, it can take Apple far longer to patch flaws, and often the underground communities, such as the jailbreak community for iPhones, where the same tight-lipped attitude about security, have fixes for security flaws before Apple has fixed the issue.

"It's only a matter of time before a serious worm hijacks tens of millions of devices and thousands of App Store apps at once, and similar on the desktop," Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist who hacks into iPhones for viForensics, said. "Flashback seemed small potatoes; more of a warning that Apple runs the risk of screwing up as big as Microsoft in letting poor design lead to widespread attacks."

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