We are all aware of the age-old debate about which OS is the best for organizations. Are Apple computers more secure than Windows? The contest between Windows and Mac seems to be a never-ending one. But does that make Windows devices more susceptible to security threats than Mac devices?
Windows and Mac computers have been in a neck-to-neck competition for a while now. And although both have their set of advantages and limitations, our world is divided into strong supporters of both operating systems. Windows is the most popular OS with over 80% of the market share, according to 2021 statistics.
Security has taken center stage as we become mindful of various cyber threats that surround us. Factors such as mere ease of use or affordability are not convincing enough. Picking a reliable OS that helps you fend-off lurking threats is important. This article draws a comparison between Windows and Mac security features to help pick what’s right for you.
Security Features of Mac & Windows
Windows and macOS being two of the most widely used operating systems in the world have a plethora of security features to enable a safe user experience. Both OS use these features to minimize exposure to security threats.
Here’s where Mac vs. Windows PC security features stand:
1. Boot Protection
Boot protection is an important aspect of security. It keeps malicious software from loading on your computer whenever it is turned on. It prevents unauthorized operating systems from running on your computers and ensures that your systems start safely.
Windows PCs feature the Secure Boot option that ensures that the OS starts with the right firmware approved by trusted OEMs. This process requires the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to be installed on the motherboard. TPM consists of a cryptographic chip that needs approval for initiating actions. Any alterations in the booting process result in alerts being sent either as a warning message to the user or as termination of the process itself.
For Mac computers with Apple’s T2 Security chip, the Startup Security Utility offers boot protection using three features, including firmware password protection, Secure Boot, and the ability to set allowed boot media. This ensures that your mac devices are turned on with the right startup disk and operating system.
2. Malware & Antivirus Protection
Malware surrounds us in various forms today, including viruses, trojans, adware, spyware, etc. Even the slightest system vulnerabilities can act as an entry point for hackers who spread malware with the intention of corrupting files or stealing sensitive data.
Windows 10 and 11 devices come with built-in Windows Security features that provide strong security capabilities, including virus and threat protection, firewall and network protection, app and browser control, and device security. Microsoft Defender, Windows’ built-in antivirus, runs constantly in the background and keeps a check on emails, browsers, apps and the cloud for malware and viruses and is a part of the Windows Security features.
Mac computers offer built-in features to prevent malware and provide strong anti-virus protection. Apple’s Gatekeeper scans software for security threats and ensures that only trusted software is allowed to run on devices. Similarly, XProtect and Notary are Apple’s anti-malware programs that defend Mac OS from various malware.
Read More: How to Configure Windows Defender using MDM?
3. App Security
Apple has a strict app review process that screens apps for their integrity and vulnerabilities before they are made available for download on the App Store. Additionally, the Gatekeeper functionality in mac devices screens apps and ensures that they are safe before you run them for the first time. macOS also offers App Sandboxing, which is an access control technology to prevent third-party apps from accessing user data stored on other apps or making alterations to the device.
Windows version 10 and above offer Defender Application Control which works in tandem with Microsoft Edge to prevent the use of unauthorized software on Windows devices. This prevents users from running malicious apps on their Windows devices.
4. Browser Security
Microsoft Edge, which is the default browser for Windows, offers website security indicators that allow users to identify if the website connection is a secure one. Moreover, if MS Edge observes a malicious or potentially insecure website, it immediately generates a pop-up warning to alert the user. Windows devices can further be protected from browser threats with the help of Windows Defender SmartScreen and Sandboxing for protection against phishing attacks or malicious codes.
Mac computers are shipped with Safari browsers, which are known to be highly secure. Apple’s Safari browsers are designed with privacy protection technology, including Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which prevents websites from collecting private user data. Safari browsers offer extensive privacy reports and full ad-blocking capabilities. Additionally, the Safari browser alerts users when their passwords have been compromised, urging them to change their passwords.
Read More: What is Secure Browsing?
The number of employees working remotely using their laptops is high in the post-pandemic world. Employees have tons of corporate data stored on their laptops and access to diverse business networks. Misplacing the laptop is not an option, but it is very much possible. With data encryption, you can minimize the damage and ensure that your corporate data stays safe even if the devices are lost or stolen.
macOS has a built-in data encryption tool called FileVault available on all mac devices above version macOS X 10.3. It encodes all the information stored on the drive which can only be decoded using a recovery key, device password, or iCloud ID.
Windows also offers a data encryption tool called BitLocker. It encrypts all the data present on the system’s drive and makes it accessible only when the user enters the security PIN. In addition, you can also enforce a startup PIN, which unless the user enters, the system won’t fall out of hibernation.
Read More: What is Data Encryption?
6. Data Backup & Restore
Windows devices version 8.0 onwards come with built-in File History which attempts to restore important files and configurations such as documents, music, videos, desktop, downloads, etc. The earlier versions of Windows, including Windows XP, featured the System Restore function, which also offered similar data restoration capabilities. However, both of these features do not offer complete system backup and restore.
Mac devices come with a built-in backup tool called Time Machine. Once configured, it automatically performs hourly, weekly, or monthly backups of your apps, documents, music, photos, etc.
7. Lost Device Protection
Both Windows PCs and Mac computers offer capabilities to track their lost devices. Windows offers a feature called ‘Find my device’, whereas macOS offers a feature called ‘Find my Mac’ which essentially has the same function. It helps users mark their devices as lost in case they are ever misplaced or stolen, which initiates a remote device locking function on devices.
Windows vs Mac Security: Which Is Safer OS?
Despite having powerful built-in security features, Apple’s macOS devices encountered the highest number of malware attacks in 2019. An article by Forbes indicates that Mac-focused malware rose by 400% in 2019, surpassing Microsoft Windows by a ratio of 2:1. On the other hand, Windows is known to be the most targeted OS by hackers, simply because of the size of the install base.
Both operating systems are working continuously on improving their security posture and providing people with a secure user experience. However, there remains a wide scope for improvement in both Windows and macOS security, starting with concerning aspects like user data tracking and harvesting, which pose a grave privacy threat for the users.
Where does this leave us in the debate on Mac vs. PC security? We can say that neither of the OS is completely perfect, but both are doing a good job with newer and better features to reinforce their user privacy and security.
Choosing between two of the world’s most popular OS is not easy. Despite the perpetual Mac vs. Windows PC security debate, the choice ultimately also boils down to satisfying your personal preferences or business needs. No matter which OS you choose, powerful MDM solutions like Scalefusion help your organization create and deploy strong security and usage policies to simplify your Mac and Windows management.