Are Apple Computers Really Safer Than Other Alternatives?

Well that depends on the device you compare it too and just what you are protecting it from. 

The reality is MACs are technically safer if you are comparing them to Windows devices and it comes down to two basic reasons. However, it is for these two exact same reasons that Chrome Books are even safer than Macs. So I guess it's time to update those Mac vs PC commercials, Google. 

As Linus from Techquicke explains in this video a big part of what makes Macs safer is that inherently those who write malicious code prefer to cast a wide net and target the larger pool of potential victims. Currently and for a very long time that has been Microsoft PCs. Microsoft also makes up the largest segment of devices in the business world, a high priority target. For this very reason, it stands that Chrome Books being newer to the market and much less used is the even safer option. 

The second reason and one not talked about much in this video is that Macs are a much more closed down echo system making it harder for malicious code to damage the security system without authorization. Something that is quite easy to get around in a Windows-based system although Windows 10 has done a lot to improve upon this. Of course, ChromeOS is even tighter with almost no way to download or run malicious software. Hence making it one of the safest devices to use in both scenarios. 

Of course, none of this really matters and thinking you're safer on one system over another only serves to benefit the people trying to hurt or steal from you. Times change and tactics evolve. PCs and high-end Macs are getting more and more expensive, it is only a matter of time before those users become more valuable targets. 

The number of Apple and Windows users I meet that don't routinely update their devices or practice good user habits because they unknowingly have bought into the idea that Macs are safer or that anti-virus software will protect them, astounds me. The biggest weakness of any system is the user sitting or sometimes standing behind it. 

At the end of the day, things like phishing, man-in-the-middle, and ransomware attacks don't care what your shiny new computer looks like and can target anyone on just about any system. So don't fall for the marketing hype, keep your software updated and maybe educate yourself on how not to fall victim to some of these scams. 

Michael DeStefano's picture

Michael DeStefano is a commercial/editorial photographer focusing on Outdoor Lifestyle and Adventure. Based in Boston, MA he combines his passion for outdoor sports like climbing and surfing into his work. When not traveling or outdoors he is often found geeking out over new tech gadgets.

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Does FS's have some kind of issue with Apple??

What's with all these articles lately....sheesh. There are other topics in the world of photography and video.

If you're interested in editing your own photos, this debate is pertinent. I'm in the market for a new machine and the decision of Mac or Windows makes this article relevant.

Not sure I'd call it an issue since the last topic the author was commending Apple. It was the majority of the commenters that had issues with Apple. :P

Correct, but I would add being aware that both of those things can't protect you from everything and using your head when on the internet will prevent a lot of problems.

Virus scanners are only a small part of an overall security strategy. Indeed, a virus scanner will not prevent modern day attacks such as ransomware, file-less malware, phishing attacks, script based attacks and many other forms of attack. And a bad virus scanner can impact performance.

At the end of the day, the computer between your ears probably has more to do with it than the one sitting on your desk.

Don't we all... ha

Lol. The older I get the more fragmented my drive becomes :)

Agreed, using safe internet practices is the best solution.


Is this another example of the Apple "reality distortion field" at work? Just because macOS X is created from BSD UNIX, that does not make it less vulnerable to exploitation than a Windows or Linux machine.

The link goes to CVE Details, a site that catalogs information about recognized vulnerabilities by CVE number. Security through obscurity is dumb!!!!

Unfortunately, the perception still exists that Mac's are somehow safer. The reality is far from the truth and Mac users have become a very attractive target for that very reason.

"Macs are a much more closed down echo system making it harder for malicious code to damage the security system without authorization"

Nope, Mac is an expensive machine with software you can get for free. Its os is Unix, which Linux is based on to which I learned to manipulate in one of the most basic IT classes A+. There are multiple derivatives of Linux, I like the way gnome is setup over the Unix in a Mac.

BSD UNIX, the OS in which macOS is based on is not built on Linux. In fact, it is the other way around. Linux was BSD based before it became System V based:

You're correct. I got my words mixed when I was writing that, my bad. (I edited my post to reflect that) Yes, Linux was built using Unix as a base. Basically if you know Linux shell, you can easily get into Unix os. I guess my only point is that it's not really locked down that tight, it's just windows is used by way more people and companies so it's more targeted. A simple virtual machine can help you easily break into a Mac, I did it because my wife was wanting the OS so she could use some apps using a Windows based pc.

Turns out she hated it and made me install mint instead.

It's cool Brandon. I'm the old school UNIX admin (Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, SCO UNIX). Never much cared for BSD, I always preferred System V OS's.

I tried Mint for a year before I gave up on it. Mint and I never really got on well. So I spent three months distro hopping before finding something I really liked and have been a happy Fedora user for the past 5 years or so. :) But hey, that's a whole other discussion. So, to bring it back to a photography theme, if anyone is wondering, yes, it's entirely possible to have an end-to-end photography workflow that is entirely Linux based. :)

Linux… are we speaking of this OS used by 0,00001% of the computer users?

Good to be that 0.00001% :-) and it rocks

Yes, I was in fact. Still doesn't change the fact that just because not many people use, doesn't mean people don't know how to break in and cause havoc. Its really a moot point anyway. You'll always have people who prefer one thing over another. Take gamers for example and the whole console vs PC debate - Even though all consoles are now PC's, the argument continues.

P.S. I love your cheese.

Linux is what Android phones and tablets run on so it has an awful lot of users. It is also the foundation of the majority of web servers so you are probably "using" it when access F-Stoppers or your own website. And it is more popular in Europe than the U.S. for desktop use.

0.0001% is just a common joke about Linux... the kind of joke made to provoke Linux Fanboys... and apparently it works! :D
The share of Linux is less than 1%, so almost nothing.
The statistics are there and no matter what you say, you can't change it...

Android is based on the Linux kernel but Android phones and tablets run Android, not Linux. Maybe you just pretend to not know the difference…

Linux is just a kernel. Then you add gnu tools to make gnu/Linux. Then you add DE and other libraries to make a Linux distro.

Technically Android is just another distro, same goes for Chrome.

Different communities or companies customize Linux kernels they way like (IoT distros are minimal kernel).

The fact that it is based on UNIX and has evolved from there is why it is harder. Yes, you can write and run code that can do malicious things on both systems but they both require a lot more permissions to run rampant and really cause harm. Unlike a Windows-based system.

That's debatable. If you don't know how to properly setup those rules and permissions to keep people out, you are just as vulnerable as windows users. The same could also be said in the opposite. If you know how to set permissions, lock down net user access < Common backdoor in windows for admin rights) and use the best encryption you can learn, no hacker is going to want to attempt your system. Imagine trying to brute force your way through a password that contains 20+ characters with special characters and really special characters, like say, an upside down question mark.

In the end, people being able to get into your system is going to be based on one thing and one thing alone. What are you doing online? Are you giving out personal information? Are you giving out pertinent information that can assist in locating you and accessing your information? Are you as a photographer keeping your EXIF data easily accessible with your name and GPS coordinates?

Fun Fact: Some government agencies still use Windows server 2000. Not going to say which ones, but lets say they are high level federal offices.

^ That right there is insane and we have been trying for years to get them to stop doing that crap.

Michael, I am a senior UNIX admin and I have seen some serious boneheaded nonsense from UNIX and Linux vendors (including Apple) that left systems wide open to exploitation. From telnet requiring no password (Solaris 10) to the sudo bypass to root (macOS X). As Brandon says, it isn't just about permissions.

I have spent 20 years working in mixed OS environments and a lot of Windows machines. Pwning a Windows box properly set up and patched is pretty damn hard. No OS is totally invulnerable to exploitation and a user Hell bent on doing something wrong will break the best security. I know this from first hand experience, everything from the "I Love You" bug, to turning off the virus scanner to posting the Oracle database connect string for a development server to multiple Internet forums.

You can't fix stupid.

Hey, Robert. You remember all the security holes back in the day with finger? That was awful.

Mark, finger, telnet, r commands .....

Michael, Unix is not inherently more secure than Windows. The term root kit comes from a specific way that Unix systems were hacked and the term was carried over to Windows. Modern operating systems have sufficient permissions to lock them down nicely. A Windows 2019 server does not have a UI or even network sharing services installed by default.

"Well that depends on the device you compare it too"...
That would be "compare it to".
"The reality is MACs"...
They're "Macs". MAC is a line of cosmetics.

That is so true. I've owned one mac product in my life, an Iphone 4, then they made it where I was required to get the new phone by basically turning my phone into a fancy expensive brick. No thanks. I'm too cheap for that.

"I've owned one mac product"...
That would be "one Apple product".
And, Apple makes Macs, not macs, although the operating system is now called macOS. Go figure.

The problem with most Mac users is that they buy every kind of total nonsense Apple says. I don't think there are less critical persons than members of the iCult. Even with all the problems of the last generations of Mac devices, iCult member will still swear their system is close to God and as perfect as can be.

The reason there are less viruses/trojans/malware is a question of economics. 90% of the market is owned by Microsoft, so most criminal will build for Microsoft. So would I if I were a criminal.

You sound like someone generalizing about people he's never met. Easy to knock down a straw dog. Not very productive, though, other than to inflate your ego.

Sorry, did I hit a raw nerve?

My nerves aren't raw, but I don't have to take gross and inaccurate generalizations about me from someone I've never met. Maybe you should talk about things you actually KNOW instead of insulting strangers.

Who the shoe fits...

[Pffffft, pfffft, pfffft] Keep inflating. There's a leak somewhere.

I haven't watched the video yet; I am just commenting from a professional IT standpoint with over 25 years of experience. From an OS level, they are mostly all the same. (ChromeOS is just a Linux variant much like Android is.) Linux, BSD which is what MacOs is built on, and Windows all have the same number of types of critical flaws within any given time period. Windows is slightly more secure from a time to patch standpoint as Microsoft is a little better about getting security patches out in a timely fashion than Apple or Redhat/IBM. Windows has had Integrity Levels since Vista and I do not believe any other OS has implemented that type of trust system outside of academic OSes.

Having said all that, if you are still with me, nearly all security exploits are targeting third party applications such as Java or Flash. The other exploits such as ransomware rely on social engineering which is a much, much bigger problem. You can be on a completely locked down system and a little social engineering with ransomware will still be utterly successful as the files the user can access can still be encrypted to be held hostage.

In other words, use whatever you like and it is fine from a security perspective. Your personal behavior is the biggest security threat to any system.

"Macs are a much more closed down echo system"
Echo? Oh, you mean ecosystem.

It would help if you'd distinguish between code vulnerabilities and user vulnerabilities. The simple fact is that for decades there has been only a tiny fraction of the amount of Windows malware aimed at and effective on Apple's operating systems. Whether that's security through obscurity or a technical advantage is of no consequence. Mac users have historically suffered FAR fewer intrusions. It is in part due to this fact, and to Microsoft's efforts over the years to secure Windows, that black-hats have turned their attention to the social side, seeking to trick users into giving up passwords because they can't get in any other way. When the user is the attack vector, it doesn't much matter which platform is involved except to the extent that that platform works to prevent risky behavior by the user. For example, someone tried to use my Apple ID recently but couldn't because I'd set up two-factor authentication, and macOS alerted me and gave me an easy way to sign out of my account on all devices and change the password.
Perhaps the article and headline should focus not on "which OS is safer" but on what users can do on any OS to insulate themselves from bad judgement, mistakes, and user-targeting attacks.

"PCs and high-end Macs are getting more and more expensive, it is only a matter of time before those users become more valuable targets."
We've been hearing for literally decades that Macs would be more successfully attacked as they became more popular. I haven't seen the tsunami yet. Chicken Little. When was the last time you saw a news report about hundreds of thousands of Macs being infected by a self-replicating virus? Oh yeah, NEVER.