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July 29, 2004

Survey adds fuel to Linux/Windows security debate

The ongoing debate about the security of Linux compared to Microsoft Corp's Windows looks set to reignite following the publication of figures from Evans Data Corp that indicate Linux users suffer fewer viruses and hacking attacks.

By CBR Staff Writer

According to Evans Data’s Summer 2004 Linux Development Survey, 92% of respondents indicated that a virus has never affected their systems, while 78% said that their systems have never been hacked, with less than 7% reporting being hacked three times or more.

The software development market research specialist contrasted those results with figures from its Spring 2004 North American Development Survey, which found that 60% of non-Linux developers had experienced a security breach, and 32% had experienced three or more.

It’s not surprising that Linux systems aren’t hacked to the degree that Windows-based machines can be exploited, said Nicholas Petreley, Evans Data’s Linux analyst. The reasons for the greater inherent security of the Linux OS are simple, more eyes on the code means that less slips by and the OS is naturally going to be better secured.

That statement will no doubt draw the attention of Microsoft’s marketing and security teams. The company produced a report in late March from Forrester Research that indicated that Windows is more secure than Linux, sparking a huge debate about how security should be measured.

It is also worth pointing out that while Microsoft Windows is currently the target of choice for hackers and virus writers, many industry watchers including Ovum research director Gary Barnett expect the number of virus and hacking attacks against Linux to increase as the operating system becomes more popular.

For the record, Evans Data found that the main ways in which Linux machines are compromised are inadequately configured security settings, vulnerability in Internet service, and web server flaws.

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