Traditionally, Mac computers have been deemed more secure than their Windows counterparts. This remained the case recently among 77% of IT departments in a survey mentioned by AppleInsider, with the perceived security of the Mac found to have influenced many purchasing decisions made by the surveyed organizations.
The Mac’s enviable reputation for security rests on the closed-off nature of the operating system compared to Windows. However, as Microsoft has increasingly followed Apple in narrowing down how developers can interact with its desktop operating system, does macOS still have an unassailable lead in the security stakes?
Apple: a runaway winner on the security front? Not so fast…
“For a while, I would have simply responded that the Mac was more secure, for sure,” security expert and software developer Charles Edge revealed to Tom’s Guide about his take on the long-running debate. Likely a factor in this is that, whereas Windows is available on hardware from a myriad of manufacturers, macOS is limited to Macs, thereby giving Apple a greater degree of direct control over how the platform is run.
“Apple can be credited with an advantage due to its tighter control over the hardware that runs macOS,” Ray Walsh of the advocacy group ProPrivacy told Digital Trends. “This does make macOS more secure, which improves data privacy by decreasing the chances of hardware-based vulnerabilities that lead to hacking or surveillance.”
There is, however, a catch to all of this. Though Apple often markets itself as putting security and privacy at the forefront with its products, “macOS is a closed source platform,” Walsh warns, adding: “This means that Mac users are ultimately at the whim of the tech giant, and it is hard to state with any confidence exactly what kind of telemetry Apple might (or might not) be acquiring via its operating system.”
The Windows to your soul… or your work habits
Nonetheless, Walsh is disparaging about how Windows compares to macOS when it comes to privacy. “Windows 10 is recognized by privacy experts as being invasive due to the widespread collection of telemetry data that is enabled by default,” he explains.
This data includes the user’s history of search queries on Bing, browsing and location history, and a transcript of any commands the user may have uttered to Cortana, Window’s built-in virtual assistant. “Gaining total privacy when using Windows 10 is virtually impossible,” Walsh despairs, with Windows 10 permitting its users no means of barring the collection of certain types of data, such as basic diagnostics data.
Ryan O’Leary, a Senior Research Analyst at IDC, further points out: “Microsoft allows a significant level of customization but, to my knowledge, that is all opt-in by the user.” He insists that privacy-enforcing configurations should instead be “the default choice”.
Whatever desktop platform they use, workers should be proactive with protecting their security. They could, for example, use a virtual private network (VPN) like Wandera’s zero trust solution to prevent hackers from being able to intercept sensitive data your business may be required to process day after day.