But Microsoft improved the security model between Windows XP and Windows 7, requiring more explicit permission from users before allowing applications to install. Windows 7 automatically keeps track of whether you have antivirus software installed or the firewall enabled, and has made other changes under the hood to make the OS more secure, Clymer says.
Another huge difference between Windows and Mac is the frequency of security updates. Every month on Patch Tuesday, and sometimes even more often, Microsoft fixes the latest security flaws in the platform. For users and IT administrators who have to apply patches, it is a cumbersome, yet necessary process.
The Unix core of Mac OS X is a great starting point to build a secure system, but "in many ways Apple is five or 10 years behind Microsoft," Clymer says. "They have the ability to move a lot more rapidly, but they are learning the same lessons other vendors have had to learn, and in some cases they are setting priorities differently. Microsoft had no choice but to make security a priority."
Apple calls Mac OS X "the world's most advanced operating system," and says it remains secure "with virtually no effort on your part."
"Mac OS X doesn't get PC viruses," Apple says. "And its built-in defenses help keep you safe from other malware without the hassle of constant alerts and sweeps."
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is previewing new versions of both Mac OS X and iOS this week at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Will the platforms be able to stand up to increasingly sophisticated attacks? Only time will tell.
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