Ammo for the OS wars

The PWN to OWN contest is finally over, and Ubuntu has won. Now that it’s official, I’m ready to go gloat on all the computer-related forums and blogs! YAY Linux FTW!!!

I kid, but this contest has prompted quite a lot of flame wars. Since no one seems to actually read up on the contest beyond the headlines repeated everywhere, I’ll go into a bit more depth here.

Basically, in case you haven’t been following it, this is how it works: On the first day, hackers try exploits that require no user interaction with the machines. The second day, the user visits websites and open emails specified by the hackers, but does not open attachments and only uses pre-installed software that came with the OS. The third day, third-party applications are included. Each day, the three laptops are subject to constant and simultaneous hack attempts.

All three machines survived the first day. Early in the second day, the Mac was hacked. Vista and Ubuntu survived till the third day, when the Vista machine was hacked. Ubuntu was the only one left at the end of the third day.

The fact that Apple lost on the second day, before Vista and Ubuntu has been the source of much controversy. I’ve been following the story on Slashdot, and reading the comments there I’ve seen how far the Mac fanboys have been willing to stretch logic and spin the story.

It has been a common misconception that Macs are drastically and inherently more secure than Windows PCs. They might have been in the past, but the only reason they appear more secure now is because they have such a small market share, and thus there are less malware/viruses out there aimed at them. You won’t see me admitting this often, but Vista’s security is actually pretty good. Internet Explorer 7 is nowhere near the best browser on the market, but it also isn’t the worst — and security-wise, it’s doing pretty good (running with limited privileges is definitely a good thing, and those “annoying” allow or deny windows are actually an important security feature). Given the fact that Vista/IE have been the main target for hacks in the last few years, it is impressive that they’ve managed to keep up a higher standard of security.

Ubuntu — the distro I’m running right now as I type this — wasn’t hacked at all. There was a lot of incentive to hack the Ubuntu laptop as well, because it was the most powerful and most expensive of the laptops available. This isn’t really surprising, since Linux is known for security and stability. IMO, the real story is that the Vista machine survived the first two days, and that the Mac machine was so quickly hacked.

So, that’s my 2 cents. I’m happy with my choice of a dual-boot between XP and Ubuntu, but if I ever have to format and reinstall Windows I’ll definitely consider Vista 64-bit. I don’t plan on buying a Mac any time soon.

About probabilityZero

I'm a rather boring, geeky college student. Most of my time is spent at a computer, reading a book, or sitting in (mostly uninteresting) classes. My hobbies include reading, blogging, creating and running websites, creating amateur video games, arguing incessantly on discussion forums, and buying books on amazon.com because I'm too lazy to go to the library.
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2 Responses to Ammo for the OS wars

  1. N/A says:

    yeah, tests show that for general computing mac is not your best choice, only reason I dont currently use some type of linux is game support, and reguarding mac, the only good things i have to say are: Great for dedicated things like video editing, and your GUI is very pretty, but as always looks dont really effect function, but lots of people seem to think look good means is good

  2. mewt says:

    Yay!! It’s good to know I’m running a secure OS on my system. I just recently installed Hardy Heron. I bet it will exceed my expectations.

    Linux rocks!!

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