Apple's Mac OS X has been declared one of the world's safest operating systems by London-based security experts, mi2g.

The security firm's Intelligence Unit has run a comparitive study of the variety of operating systems available today. It states: "The world's safest and most secure online server Operating System (OS) is proving to be the Open Source family of BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) and Mac OS X based on Darwin."

It's also claimed that Linux has become the most breached online server OS in the government and non-government spheres for the first time, while the number of successful hacker attacks against Windows-based servers have fallen for the last ten months.

To arrive at its conclusions, mi2g analysed 17.074 successful digital attacks against servers and networks. It states: "With Linux accounting for 13,654 breaches, Windows for 2,005 breaches followed by BSD and Mac OS X with 555 breaches worldwide in January 2004."

The group discounted the recent wave of worms, viruses and other attacks that have affected Windows systems worldwide. It confined the study to overt digital attacks by hackers.

"For the first time, the number of recorded breaches against government servers running BSD or Mac OS X worldwide fell to zero in January 2004," the analyst said.

Company executive chairman DK Matai said: "The swift adoption of Linux last year within the online government and non-government server community, coupled with inadequate training and knowledge on how to keep that environment secure when running vulnerable third party applications, has contributed to a consistently higher proportion of compromised Linux servers. Migration to Open Source can be fool's gold without adequate training and understanding of the impact that third party applications have on overall safety and security."

While offering Windows Server administrators some credit for seeing off many of the attacks, Matai reserved the real praise for Apple and BSD: "The real credit has to go to the developers and administrators of BSD and Mac OS X for maintaining such an excellent track record of the lowest number of breaches," he said.