During the recent American and French Presidential elections, the prime candidates suffered a breach of security, which led to their immensely sensitive cache of confidential emails being compromised and on basis of this breach question that what are most secure operating systems rises.
This made many reconsider how secure their operating systems really are. What protections do they provide against such contagious malware and spyware attacks?
What you exactly mean by a secure operating system depends on of what you want to defend. Threats vary, so do the protections liaised against them.
From compromising your phone’s gallery to even losing your Bitcoins, there are multiple layers of threats, which you might need to address and considerations while acquiring a secure operating system.
However, despite all the security an operating system can deploy to beef it up against malicious intent, there is very little you can do if you are being attacked by a zero day exploit. This exploit targets any discrepancy or bug found in the OS or in third party programs that was previously unknown to its developers.
And, if a highly skilled intruder manages to use these vulnerabilities and breaches within your OS, then the system would probably be held to doom until a patchwork emerges fast.
Detecting such threats is not such a plausible scenario. Even highly advanced Intrusion Prevention systems or IPSes are not capable of identifying such threats. This is because the attack signature doesn’t match any of previously known Malware signatures.
That’s exactly where these Z-Day exploits gain their notoriety for being the biggest threat in the current security domain.
While you can’t stop or detect them that easily, you can definitely neutralize some of their effects by opting for security protocols like data segmentation or even full disk encryption.
This rule or anomaly, as you may term it, will be almost the same irrespective of which OS is being reviewed below, so please bear in mind that no OS IS SAFE from a Z-day exploit whenever it strikes, and we have based our rankings below on metrics other than this.
Most Secure Operating Systems
Here are the most secure Operating Systems out there and our guide towards the different layers of security they could afford you, gearing you towards making a more informed choice when it comes to updating your current OS or making a switch altogether:
BSD or Berkeley Software Distribution traces its origins to the University of California and is the most secure OS featured on our list. Why?
Because it’s serving a very niche market and its developers have been incessantly paranoid about the security it affords to the users.
Its developers take pride in the proactive approach, which is to detect security loopholes and redeem them before anyone else figures them out. This system of auditing has served Open BSD OS pretty well up until now.
In the last decade, there have just two attacks on the system, which speaks volumes about its capability to ward off unnecessary heckling.
But one of the most impressive features of Open BSD is that, its basic network stack comes with a built in IPsec system. Other OS often rely on VPNs to provide that grade of security and this prime feature is an indicator of how encryption is big part of Open BSD.
With Open BDS, you would have all of your essential resources turned off by default, including your Web Servers, guaranteeing an impenetrable OS system to its user.
However, its main downside is that it’s of little use to those who are lowly skilled in tech. It requires a comparatively informed and experienced user to make full use of it.
But, considering the fact that it doesn’t log user info and protects its pilferage with all its might, it’s the safest bet by a long shot for even the most strident of security buffs.
Intended for those who live at a heightened level of security risk, nearly all the time, such as whistleblowers, activists, high profile bankers and others alike, Qubes is an incredibly safe OS.
Each program is restricted in access to the rest, which means that even if you experience a security breach, it won’t be able to reach other areas and affect the whole system.
Qubes does this by making compartmentalization necessary to the core through initiating each program in its internal virtual machine. This separating initiation procedure is intended to alienate each program from the rest of its contemporaries and hence provide a layered, secure environment to each user.
But, this system scores less because users will find it incredibly difficult to use and would have to troubleshoot issues a lot of times before they start getting a hang of it. Qubes doesn’t log user data, thereby providing a good reason for you to go out and experience the pain of learning how to operate it.
Mac OS & Windows OS
Have you heard the myth that Macs don’t get viruses? And how about that myth that Macs are more secure than Windows? Basically, adhering or believing any of these two myths would be akin to exposing yourself to security breaches quite easily.
These myths ride of the fact that Mac OS is targeted less frequently by malware and adware than Windows OS. Why? The answer is a no Brainer!
Windows is by far, the most popular OS on the planet with a mind-boggling 89% share of the OS market. Mac OSs shouldn’t even be considered at second place as they are installed in just a paltry 8% of the systems globally. And this difference in popularity fuels the aforementioned misconceptions like wild fire.
Just answer this, if you are a skilled hacker and are looking to siphon of money of individuals and firms, won’t you intend to target Windows OS, as it will guarantee you maximum ground to further your goals?
Probably your answer would be a resounding, yes! The Windows universe is an enticing target for more potential malware attempts than is Mac OS. So, even if by obscurity, Mac OS is definitely more safer as lesser attempts are made against it.
Microsoft has worked for years now to make Windows ever safer. By introducing the Sandbox feature, which restricts individual programs from accessing the system storage compartment, Windows is no slightly more secure but still leaves a lot to be desired.
One of its many downsides is that it logs user info to a very high extent. All of its programs provide Microsoft with workable data like Office 365 and One Drive, making the user increasingly vulnerable in the event that Microsoft is targeted by an embarrassing leak.
Microsoft also targets you through ads and messages based on this data generated from your end. This allows a wide window of possibility for someone trying to phish you with a malware by shrouding an email or using similar access instruments.
But Mac OS is not free from such attempts to develop digital profiles of its users. It logs their data regularly and even if you are siding with Mac on the Windows vs. Mac battle, you will have a bit of discomfort in accepting that plausibly, Mac OS is not as secure as it seems to be.
Apple can share and deploy your data wherever it deems worthy and in our assessment, that is probably the greatest deviation of security that can occur.
For both Windows OS and Mac OS, it’s up to the user to decide on which feels better secure. But for us, both of them are relatively insecure systems with Windows a little ahead based on its popularity and the larger stream of people trying to crack it up with malware.
But Apple is relatively slow to react to security flaws as compared to Windows OS, which normally takes less than 48 hours to complete the patchwork and release it worldwide.
Linux, isn’t a OS, as many people wrongly believe it to be. It’s just a kernel. Similarly, Linux isn’t as secure as people believe it to be and can be compromised as easily as Windows or Mac.
But the greatest factor working in Linux’s favor is its open source nature, allowing every user with the chance to read and work the code to customize it for as much security as they want.
Even security flaws find it hard to come into existence in an OS, which is constantly upgraded and verified by that many number of people.
There are other things working in its favor just as well:
- Its vast repository of environments, like Gentoo and Ubuntu
- Shell systems with a lot of variation
This makes it increasingly futile for hackers to target much more than a small faction of users at a single instance.
You don’t even have root privileges on Linux like you would have on Windows. So, even if you like to open that dubious email you received, the virus would have to be really strong to go on and affect the system.
How is Linux
Linux is complicated and opening an email on it is not the same as opening an email on say, Windows.
You can’t just simply open it, as you would have to go through saving it and then provide it with multiple rounds of permissions to execute. So the chances are, that even though, technically a Linux is not safe from malware, a malware’s attack would only be able to damage it to very limited extent.
However, even with all of these impressive security obligations, Linux falters on one much more important quadrant i.e. logging user data.
Users are having their data logged in multiple forms just as they are in Windows and Mac OS. This makes them inherently vulnerable to hackers targeting the data logs at Linux and not individual users.
Linux scores relatively low on this account and although it is more secure than Windows and Mac in its internal structuring, it has to go forego its user logging policy to get a better ranking. Nonetheless, you can definitely benefit from obscurity afforded by its relatively small user base, making it less frequently visited by attacks.
iOS & Android
There is not a lot of difference in Android and iOS mobile OS as compared to Windows and Macs, despite Android being powered by Google at the backend.
Android suffers largely more malware attacks owing to its larger domination of the market just like Windows. On the other hand, iOS gets to feel less of the brunt because of its presence only in a niche market.
However, on user logging policies, both manage huge caches of varied personal data due to the wide range of applications run under their pretext.
Anything from your transportation history to your jogging profiles can be accessed as precious troves of data by prying eyes.
Open BSD rules the roost and Qubes follows in very closely, but due to their difficult usage models, it’s highly unlikely that they would be going more popular any time soon.
As for other, low-tech users, Macs would be better recommended as they will offer them a workable veil of security. Also, it is user friendly enough to allow them to be readily adopted.
But user attitude is often the precursor towards making an OS more secure. More intentioned and balanced behavior can even make a Windows more secure than an Open BDS.
These steps include networking through a VPN, which will you anonymity on the web and dismember any attempts to log in your data anywhere.
Refusing to get free torrents and software cracks that could compromise your system through malware.
Not clicking on dubious links or programs internally or on the web, carrying a two-step authentication process for your social media profiles or other similar online identities and more.
In the end, the best way to secure yourself is through guiding your behavior to avoid any mishaps. This way you won’t have to go through the painful cycle of picking up the pieces and starting all over.