Mac OS isn’t as safe as you think

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The following was originally published on February 7, 2016 on Seacoastonline.com.

Recent reports from security software firm GFI has what some may say are surprising results. Mac OSX now holds the undesirable title of most vulnerable computer operating system.

For years, Mac users have maintained the strong insistence that Apple software is more secure than Microsoft software, specifically the Mac operating system as compared to the Windows operating system. While that was certainly true for a time, this latest study states this has changed and I’m not surprised at all.

For many years, I have contended that as Apple products gained market share that it was only a matter of time before it became larger targets for hackers and distributors of malicious software designed to break in to operating systems and applications. My theory appears to be accurate based on this new report.

Specifically, the report lists Mac OSX as the most vulnerable, followed next by iOS, the operating system that runs iPhones and iPads. Third is the Linux kernel, the heart of the Linux operating system that is used by many embedded devices and finally Microsoft’s Windows operating system for both server’s and PCs.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux, it is a server and personal computer operating system similar to OSX and Windows in that it is the software that runs the hardware. However, it was originally developed as a free personal computer operating system and later evolved into commercial versions from companies such as Red Hat. Today, Linux runs in a variety of applications and is used extensively in embedded systems. These are dedicated pieces of hardware that typically perform a single function and Linux controls this.

Operating systems are the most sought after points of vulnerability to hack into a computer or network, but there are several applications that run on these applications that are also a serious concern. Chief among them is web browser software. Again, this is no surprise as web browsers are so heavily used, not only for surfing the web, but also for running all manner of web-based applications like online banking.

Internet Explorer tops the list, which makes sense as it is the most widely used browser. Chrome is second followed by Firefox. Next on the list is Adobe Flash and Java. I’m sure you see the periodic pop-ups asking you to update these pieces of software and it’s important to do so to be sure they stay secured from vulnerabilities.

All this points to a longstanding need to keep your computer secured, regardless what operating system it is running. I know far too many users of Macs who stand fast that they do not need to worry about viruses, malware and the like and this is simply not true. Especially in the workplace, where more Macs are in use now than at any time in the past, these computers must be properly managed and secured and their users properly educated, to insure they do not fall victim to the increase in security threats that face them.

Many software companies that make security software for Windows also have versions for Mac and a growing number for Linux as well. What is most important is to be monitoring all your computers for malicious or suspect activity that may suggest a vulnerability exists or is being exploited. As today is Super Bowl Sunday, it seems very fitting to remind you that the best offense is good defense and this applies to every computer you use.

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