A 12-month study by a leading digital security company concludes that Mac OS X and Open Source BSD OS's are the world's safest computing environments.

Mi2g analysed 235,907 successful digital breaches against permanently connected computers across the world over 12-months to arrive at its conclusions.

The study reveals Linux to have become the most breached computing environment, accounting for 65.64 per cent of all recorded attacks. The number of successful attacks against Microsoft Windows-based machines accounted for 25.19 per cent of all recorded breaches. However, the number of successful attacks against BSD and OS X systems is a tiny 4.82 per cent.

"Move Mac", says mi2g

mi2g executive chairman, DK Matai, said: "More and more smart individuals, government agencies and corporations are shifting towards Apple and BSD environments in 2004."

He continued: "How long can the truth remain hidden that the great emperors of the software industry are wearing no clothes fit for the fluid environment in which computing takes place, where new threats manifest every hour of every day. 

Explaining his assessment of a "paradigm shift", he explained: "Busy professionals have spotted the benefits of Apple and BSD because they don't have the time to cope with umpteen flavours of Linux or to wait for Microsoft's Longhorn when Windows XP has proved to be a stumbling block in some well chronicled instances."

The last twelve months have witnessed the deadliest annual period of malware attacks against Windows-based machines with over 200 countries and millions of computers worldwide infected, the company said.

The study sample group included homes and small offices without a separate firewall; small organisations with a sub-$7 million turnover and a separate firewall; organisations with a turnover between $7 million and $40 million with a separate firewall and intrusion detection; and large organisations with a turnover in excess of $40 million with firewall layers, intrusion detection systems and dedicated computer security staff.

Windows and Linux attacks abound

The company said: "In a remarkable switch in top rank within the Government computing environment over the last twelve months, the most breached Operating System for online systems has now become Windows (57.74 per cent) followed by Linux (31.76 per cent) and then BSD and Mac OS X together (1.74 per cent)".

Economically, the analysts believe Windows has become the "most breached computing environment in the world", adding that attacks against Windows systems account for "most of the productivity losses" associated with malware attacks. The firm estimates economic damage through such malware attacks as worth up to $126 billion.

It determines such damage on a basis of: the cost of helpdesk support; overtime payments; outsourcing; loss of business; bandwidth clogging; productivity impacts; managerial costs; recovery costs and software costs.

Addressing its critics

mi2g has received criticism for previous studies, and the company chose to respond to its critics. "Previously, the mi2g data for one month was considered to be too small a sample and not representative of the global environment within which different types of entities - micro, small, medium and large - exist."

The previous study - released last year - also found in favour of Mac OS X and BSD. The company then faced a deluge of criticism from various parties, who it describes as proponents of Linux and Windows. The previous study was based on one month's analysis.