RealTime IT News

Surprise, Your Headline Was Wrong

It's nice to know we have passionate readers. A story I wrote a few weeks back -- "Surprise, Microsoft Listed As Most Secure OS" -- made that clear.

However, there are some issues these readers noted, some more politely than others, that I want to address. Where necessary, I will include the reader responses in italics -- and unedited.

For starters, the story has a new headline: "Report Says Windows Gets The Fastest Repairs." And for good reason. The more rational among our respondents pointed out that Microsoft is not an OS, Windows is. That's what happens when you improvise a headline late in the day. The headline was misleading, as was stating Microsoft (Windows) was the most secure OS in the headline.

"Suprise, you're an idiot ...who doesn't know how to read let alone contextualize a snippet of a report which makes no claim that Windows is "more" secure than Apple"

Let's see. Thirty-nine issues for Windows, 43 for Mac, 63 for Solaris, 98 for HP-UX and 208 for Red Hat Linux in the second half of 2006. So who has the fewest problems? Numerically, Microsoft did, and it had the fastest turnaround time.

What disqualifies Microsoft from such a distinction, as so many pointed out, was the number of severe issues. Windows had 12 in the last six months of 2006, and Mac OS, Linux, HP-UX and Solaris all had one or two. That was what made the headline so inaccurate, and it's a rightful complaint. But again, I did not downplay this in the story. Rather, I pointed out that Microsoft had far and away the most severe bugs.

A legitimate complaint from many is that Red Hat's haul of 208 problems wasn't just confined to the operating system but utilities and other elements of the distribution. You're all quite right. I would have broken it out if the numbers were available, but they were not.

"You are a liar. The report does not say anything like that. There is nothing in the report that would lead any responsible person into making up such audacious lies."

It's called analysis, something we try to do from time to time. Simply regurgitating press releases is not only boring, it does nothing to distinguish us. When something like Symantec's massive report comes in, any one of us would look it over for the first-day take, which was my first story on the report, then scour it for a follow-up story. Of course anyone is free to disagree with our analysis as was the case here.

I do owe an apology to the folks at Symantec for any grief they may have gotten over the headline or assumptions made off the story. For the record, Symantec never gave an endorsement of one operating system over another. They merely listed the numbers; I drew my own conclusions.

Another reader came closer to the mark:

"I find it highly dubious that with anywhere from 70,000 to 115,000 viruses, trojans, spyware, malware, crapware, etc for the Windows platform and none (zero, zip, nada) for the Mac platform, that the Mac platform can be considered 'less secure' than the Windows platform."

He is correct in the incredible prevalence of Windows malware , but let's be real: Windows is the target because everyone uses it, not because it's a poorly coded OS full of holes. If Macintosh or Linux were the dominant platform, they would have all the malware.

But he was incorrect that there is "zip, zero, nada" malware for Mac. There certainly is, and there are certainly vulnerabilities. Ironically, most of the vulnerabilities uncovered on the Mac are found by coders and security experts who are trying to secure the OS. If there's ever sufficient motivation for the bad guys to target the Mac, they will find many more.

As my earlier reporting indicates, the bad guys are on Windows because, as Willie Sutton said of why he robbed banks, that's where the money is. (OK so he denied saying that, but it helps get my point across.)

Next page: more reader mail.