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Windows beats Linux - Unix on vulnerabilities - CERT

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SANS - Survey on application security programs

It might not feel like it, but Windows suffered fewer security vulnerabilities than Linux and Unix during 2005.

Linux and Unix experienced more than three times as many reported security vulnerabilities than Windows, according to the mighty US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) annual year-end security index.

Windows experienced 812 reported operating system vulnerabilities for the period between January and December 2005, compared to 2,328 for Linux and Unix.

CERT found more than 500 multiple vendor vulnerabilities in Linux and Unix spanning old favorites such as denial of service and buffer overflows, while CERT recorded 88 Windows-specific holes and 44 in Internet Explorer (IE). For a complete list of vulnerabilities, you can visit the CERT site here.

The annual poll does not include the Windows MetaFile (WMF) vulnerability, which has become the most widely reported attack on Windows according to security and antivirus specialist McAfee since being reported on December 28.

News of Windows' relative security will prove little comfort to millions of computer users now bracing for the latest attack of the Sober worm variant due this week.

CERT's data underlines the scale of the challenge faced by Microsoft on security, four years into the company's highly publicized Trusted Computing initiative.

Despite posting fewer vulnerabilities than its Unix and Linux challengers and Microsoft going out its way to talk up its "progress" in security in 2005, it is attacks on Windows that still cause more concern and generate most headlines.

The reason is that, unlike Linux, Windows has greater potential to cause harm because of its presence on desktops in the hands of users who receive self-propagating worms, click on email attachments and download malicious code. And while it seems just as each hole is fixed, a new vulnerability is unlocked elsewhere in the vast Windows code base.®

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