Windows vs Linux security comparison is an essential topic for IT administrators and other PC users as they need to understand the level of security these operating systems offer.
Both operating systems provide next-class security features but differ in scope. Therefore, understanding how each one works may help you make the right choice.
This post highlights Linux vs windows performance, so read on to know their differences!
|Open source – GNU General Public License
|Not too segmented
|Network security and protocols
|SSL, SSH, LDAP, AD, IPSec
|OpenSSL, Open SSH, OpenLDAP, IPSec
|McAfee, Check Point, IIS, Symantec, Exchange/Outlook, PCKS 11
|OpenAV, Panda, TrendMicro, firewall capability built into the kernel, Snort, Sendmail, Postfix, PKCS 11, exec-shield, Apache
|Users have administrator access by default
|Users have lower-level accounts with no root access
- 1 What’s the Difference Between Windows and Linux Security?
- 2 What Are the Essential Features of Windows Security?
- 3 What Are the Specifications of Linux Security?
- 4 Conclusion
What’s the Difference Between Windows and Linux Security?
The main difference between Windows and Linux security systems is that Linux is an open-source system with high-tech security. It has a robust user community with access to the source code and can monitor for vulnerabilities, catching them earlier than hackers, unlike in Windows, which is a closed-source system.
While Windows has some open-source programs, the operating system is closed. Therefore, users cannot fix any arising issues by themselves since they do not have permission to modify the source code. If users encounter an error, they must report it and wait for it to get fixed.
– Admin Access
Windows allows users to have full admin access to their accounts, leaving the system vulnerable to outward interference. For instance, if a virus attacks the system, it can quickly corrupt the entire Windows system architecture. And because Windows is not modular, the entire Windows operating system goes down when one part is affected.
In contrast, Linux allows users limited access (no root access). Thus, in the event of a virus attack, only part of this system is affected. The virus/malware cannot affect the entire system since Linux doesn’t run as root by default, which is needed to make significant changes.
– Automated Functions
Windows accommodate automated functions. That means you can use Windows without configuring files or solving technical issues. While it saves time, this arrangement allows the malware to sneak into the system.
For instance, executable malware can disguise itself as a Word document. When you click to open this file, Windows will not run Word. Instead, it follows the execution cues in the file.
In contrast, Linux is pre-configured to run important system tasks that keep the system updated only. However, you can configure other tasks to run automatically within a specified time or on a specified date.
– Application Security
Linux users get enhanced application security courtesy of firewalling built into the kernel. Besides that, Snort is an excellent intrusion detection system. Linux added Ingo Molnar’s exec-shield to the Linux kernel for x86-based systems.
This feature offers protection against attacks from buffer or function pointer overflows. Additionally, it protects against other exploits that rely on overwriting data structures or putting code into those structures.
While Microsoft is taking strides to redesign its security system and provide patches, it still doesn’t match Linux. For instance, security issues in legacy Windows products persist and complicate this task. As a result, Microsoft users are left exposed to security threats because patches must be well-documented before deployment.
Furthermore, Microsoft tends to mix program code and data in its Apps, e.g., ActiveX. This can allow untrusted data from outside the system and activate arbitrary code with data that is not trustworthy.
– Flexibility and Configurability
Linux has more configuration and control options for administrators than for Windows users. These options can also be used to enhance security. For example, Linux sysadmins can use AppArmor or SELinux to lock down their system with security policies offering granular access controls. This offers an additional layer of security in the entire system, unlike in Windows.
While the two are different in structure and function, they are similar in certain aspects. The similarities between Linux and windows include the following:
- Graphical user interfaces
- They are interfaces for activities and sharing of the computer
- They can run several different types of web services
- File systems can be corrupted in both
What Are the Essential Features of Windows Security?
The essential features of Windows Security offers the latest antivirus protection, actively protecting your devices from the moment you start Windows. It continually scans for malware viruses and security threats. In addition, it automatically downloads updates to keep your devices safe.
Here are its key features:
– Windows Defender Smart Screen
The Windows Defender Smart Screen protects against malware and phishing websites and applications. Furthermore, it blocks the downloading of potentially malicious files. According to Microsoft, it can “block at first sight.” However, this feature applies to Windows 10, 11, and Microsoft Edge.
Typically, it protects employees when they visit websites previously reported as having malware or phishing and stops them from downloading anything malicious. Since it can detect fake ads, scam sites, and drive-by attacks, it ensures that employees remain protected.
It determines if a site or an app is malicious by:
- Analyzing visited web pages or downloaded apps and searching for indicators of suspicious behavior: If it concludes that a page is suspicious, a warning page will pop up
- Analyzes visited websites against a dynamic list of reported malicious software and phishing sites
- Examining downloaded files against a list of files well-known and downloaded by Windows users: If the file is not on the list, Microsoft Defender SmartScreen shows a warning, advising caution
– Windows Defender Application Guard
Microsoft Defender Application Guard prevents both emerging and old threats allowing employees to remain productive. Application Guard isolates enterprise-defined untrusted sites on Microsoft Edge, protecting your company while your employees browse the Internet.
Enterprise administrators define what is among trusted websites, cloud resources, and internal networks. Anything not on the list is considered untrusted. If an employee visits an untrusted site through Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer, the browser opens the site in an isolated Hyper-V-enabled container.
Also, Application Guard blocks untrusted Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files from accessing trusted resources. It will open untrusted files in an isolated Hyper-V-enabled container, separate from the host operating system.
Application Guard is used on the following devices:
- Enterprise desktops and mobile laptops: They are domain-linked and managed by an organization
- Bring your own device (BYOD) mobile laptop: These are personal laptops managed by your organization. They are domain-linked
- Personal devices: These are personally owned computers — laptops and desktops. They are not domain-linked, and the user is the admin on the device
– Windows Defender Antivirus (WDA)
Microsoft Defender Antivirus is a component of protection in Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. It combines machine learning, in-depth threat resistance research, big-data analysis, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to protect your organization’s devices (or endpoints).
Windows defender antivirus is compatible with other antiviruses, so you can run it passively alongside other antimalware products on your device. However, this depends on the operating system type and whether the device is onboarded to Defender for Endpoint.
It has a built-in firewall and a safe browsing environment to protect your device from common threats. The firewall supports Domain, Private and Public configurations.
– Windows Defender Device Guard
Device Guard is equipped with enterprise-grade application whitelisting to protect kernel processes and drivers from threats like zero-day attacks. This feature embraces the mode where apps are authorized by an enterprise/Admin. It has two modes of operations:
- Kernel mode code integrity (KMCI): Protests the kernel mode and drivers from vulnerabilities such as zero-day attacks using HVCI.
- User mode code integrity (UMCI): A whitelisting technique that achieves PC lockdown for enterprises using only trusted apps.
– Microsoft Bitlocker
Bitlocker is a drive encryption tool in-built into Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise to address threats of data exposure or theft from lost, stolen, or inappropriately decommissioned/commissioned computers. Therefore, it can mitigate unauthorized data access by enhancing file and system protections and rendering data inaccessible if the PC is decommissioned or recycled.
However, it offers maximum protection when used with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 1.2 or later versions. BitLocker can still be used on PCs without TPM v1.2 or later, but the user needs to insert a USB startup key to start the computer or resume hibernation.
TPM is an additional hardware requirement on Windows devices. Linux vs. Windows 11 comparison reveals that some Linux distributions are optimized for low-end PCs, so you can maintain security without changing or adding hardware or software.
What Are the Specifications of Linux Security?
The specifications of Linux OS security includes file system security, built-in kernel security defenses, data encryption and decryption tools, and a secure design. It has a somewhat different layout. As a result, its security feature may slightly differ from Windows.
When you search Linux vs. Windows security Reddit, you will have remarkable differences in the structure. Here are the key Linux security features:
– File System Security
Everything is a file in Linus OS. If not, then it is a process. All files require permission since a user and a group user own them. Remember, for each file in a Linux system, permissions are assigned to the owner of the file, the group owner, and others.
If you don’t own these files, you will need read, write, and execute permissions, which can be granted or denied. You can list permission of a file with the ls command with the -la flags.
File permissions are essential as they create a secure environment. For instance, people will not change your files, and your system file can be kept safe from damage, whether deliberate or accidental.
– Built-in Kernel Security Defenses
Linux has security built into its core design. Apart from the open-source design, it uses a strict user privilege model and provides a selection of built-in kernel security defenses to safeguard against vulnerabilities and attacks. Such tools include:
- ArpON (MitM defense tool): It is a host-based tool to improve the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) security.
- Fail2ban (log parser and blocking utility): An intrusion prevention programs framework that protects computer servers from brute-force attacks through network traffic filtering and security monitoring.
- MongoSanitizer (defense against MongoDB injection attacks): It is used as an extra defense layer to prevent injection attacks from reaching the database. It is essential for application security and database security
- hBlock (ad blocking and tracker/malware protection): It helps block malicious domains, advertisements, malware, and trackers. Trackers could be pixels added to sites to track the pages you visited, invading your privacy.
- nixarmor (Linux hardening script): This hardening tool has shell scripts to harden Linux systems and help promote security automation. It configures the entire system to improve its security level.
– Data Encryption/Decryption Tools
The Linux operating system offers tools to help you encrypt and decrypt files easily. Encryption allows only authorized individuals to access your file on Linux. Here are the most common tools:
- GnuPG: GnuPG is a part of the default GNU package and comes preinstalled, making it the most used encryption tool on Linux. The tool has a public key (can be sent to anyone) and a private key (stays with you). Files encrypted with a public key can be decrypted with a private key, so you must set up the keys first before using them.
- ccrypt: This replacement of UNIX crypt is a utility for files and streams encryption and decryption. It uses 256-AES for encryption and is pretty straightforward, making it ideal for the less important files.
– Secure Design
Linux system is meticulously designed to give it maximum security. For example, it has multiple levels of authorization preventing the installation of malware and malicious codes.
Furthermore, the Linux system has no open ports by default. Unlike Windows, no external devices or programs can access your device without opening ports. Viruses and malware made for Linux are extremely rare because Linux OS is the least popular OS. This makes it unprofitable for cyber attackers to attack it.
Linux Distros such as Qubes OS provide security by isolating the user’s files to protect them from malware. Kali Linux has penetration testing tools and applications, which are ideal for advanced security engineering.
We have explored the topic “Windows vs. Linux security strengths and weaknesses” in this post. The key point is that Linux OS has fewer exploitable security flaws because the Linux code is reviewed by the tech community constantly for flaws, bugs, and vulnerabilities. Linux’s technical nature and top-notch security nature make it ideal for corporate enterprises.
Microsoft Windows is much easier to use but can be susceptible to security threats if not well used. However, it is a nice option for business users and casual gamers.