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Security Showdown: Windows 8.1 vs. Mac OS X Yosemite

Windows and Mac have been engaged in a battle for supremacy in the PC space for quite some time now. Of course, Microsoft’s offering is far ahead of its rival in the number game, but the relevance of such an advantage is fading as the concern for security is on the rise. Pitting Windows 8.1 against OS X Yosemite, we attempted to find out which of the two titans has a sturdier defense and hence better security.

Security Showdown: Windows 8.1 vs. Mac OS X Yosemite

Root Security

We hate to break it to you, but the opening round of the bout between the two prolific operating systems concluded with a double knock-out. Who would have thought that after all the developments in security over the years, Apple and Microsoft would find their claims of immaculate security challenged by a weak padlock on the front gate. As it happens, gaining root access on either of the two operating systems is far from impossible. While accomplishing the task is no piece of cake, the mere confirmation of its possibility has left us shaking our head in disappointment. We may be willing to cut Windows 8.1 some slack, but finding the privilege escalation vulnerability in the newest iteration of OS X during its infancy phase is beyond forgiveness. Root access, in most cases, becomes necessary to install certain kind of computer monitoring software, like the one listed here However, having root access in an easily exploitable condition is not something we can ignore so easily.

Security Showdown: Windows 8.1 vs. Mac OS X Yosemite


With malware rapidly growing in prevalence, encryption is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity. Fortunately, Apple and Microsoft did not ignore the importance of such a feature and integrated support for encryption in their respective flagship operating systems for the PCs. Windows 8.1’s BitLocker encryption technology may be slightly outdated as compared to the fresh and slightly enhanced version of FileVault 2 in Yosemite, but we found both to be doing a quick and clean job of securing data. There is, however, a major issue with Microsoft’s integration of the BitLocker feature; it’s a hit-or-miss security functionality due to the requirement of a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip which is not as common as our friends at Microsoft believe. As a result, we cannot help rating OS X Yosemite better than its rival in the encryption department.


Firewall protection is a standard feature when it comes to security in operating systems, so we were hardly surprised to run into it in both Apple’s and Microsoft’s offering for the PC. However, what we found disappointing was the fact that neither of the two operating systems offered two-way firewall for multi-pronged protection. All we found was a conventional inbound firewall protection, protecting the users from only certain kinds of threats. The outbound firewall protection, which beefs up the security by covering a greater variety of malware and other threats seeking an unsolicited access to and from the system, was noticeably absent. Although firewalls are not always the most reliable shield against computer threats, undermining their role and failing to give them due attention can prove to be a costly mistake. Both Microsoft and Apple miss the trick here.

Malware Protection

Windows 8.1 and OS X Yosemite come equipped with native defense against malware, though we found that the latter carry more effective tools in its arsenal than its rival. The Gatekeeper and App Sandbox feature in Apple’s offering adds a thick layer of security on Mac systems by giving users complete control over the downloaded applications. Furthermore, the security protocols in place ensure that the applications only do what they are intended to, and not mess around. Windows 8.1 comes loaded with the all-too-familiar Windows Defender application. While we won’t call its effectiveness shabby, it has a tendency to disappoint when confronted by threats that are slick and dicey. Moreover, removing malware in the Windows operating system can become slightly complicated due to the registry system, as opposed to Mac’s Unix-based approach of simply deleting infected files.

The Verdict

There is absolutely no doubt that Windows 8.1 is the most secure operating system by Microsoft to date. However, it still doesn’t quite match up to the standard that Apple has set in security. With OS X Yosemite, the bar has been raised even higher. While we did find a few areas where it seemed lacking, we have to admit that we were quite impressed by the overall security makeup of Apple’s newest offering, making it a clear winner in our eyes.

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