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Linux lags Windows in new security report

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A report released today indicates Windows Server 2003 may actually be more secure than its most popular Linux competitor when it comes to vulnerabilities and the time it takes to patch them.

"The fact that Security Innovations [which produced the paper] retained 'editorial control' doesn't help; if Microsoft is paying the bills, there can be all sorts of nonverbal pressure behind the scenes. It isn't like it was 'co-funded' by both Microsoft and Red Hat," said Michael D. "Mick" Bauer, senior editor of Linux Journal and director of value-subtracted services for

He also questioned the narrow focus. "This study appears to be more concerned with vulnerability counts and patch-release cycles than in actual security or securability. Certainly, if Microsoft has reduced the amounts of bugs in [its] software and gotten faster at patching bugs, that's great. But the bug-patch rat race is only one part of a much more complicated security picture, and the way I see it, Linux still has compelling advantages from a security standpoint."

Such a reaction was anticipated by authors Richard Ford, Herbert H. Thompson and Fabien Casteran. They intentionally ignored threat profiles in favor of inherent vulnerabilities in Windows Server 2003 and two versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0. The goal, they said, is to provide a security metric for IT professionals to apply to their own software shopping.

"I don't think people should make adoption decisions purely based on the results, but I think it does at the very least give decision makers and diehards on either side, or even the neutral people, a chance to look beyond hype and speculation and look at hard numbers," said Thompson, director of research at Melbourne, Fla.-based Security Innovation Inc., the application security provider that produced the report.

Thompson denies Microsoft's money influenced results but admits that's a source of contention for a lot of people. "We've gotten funding from Microsoft and as a result of that people have come back and said this automatically must not be relevant and fair and balanced. That's one reason our mission has been to be completely transparent in the methodology."

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