Are you secure or are you safe?

Charlie Miller, the Mac expert who won the Mac hacking contest at CanSecWest for the past two years, had an interesting comment about the security of Macs. He said that Macs are safer than Wintel PCs, but they're not as secure. That's an interesting distinction.

According to Miller, the lack of effective security products for Macs easily makes them less secure than a Wintel PC. He also claims that there aren't many attacks against Macs because hackers just haven't bothered to create them. He claims that if hackers spent the time and effort to target Macs, they'd find that it's actually easier for them than targeting Wintel PCs. This means that Macs aren't as secure an PCs.

On the other hand, the fact that there are actually fewer attacks against Macs makes them safer than a PC. So even though hackers could exploit then if they wanted to, they don't actually do it. Because of this, the chances of a Mac being hacked are actually less than the chances of a PC getting hacked. This makes them safe, even though they're not secure.

So Miller's distinction seems to be that you're secure if you can't get exploited, and you're safe if you won't get exploited. The fact that many businesses didn't start using security technologies until regulatory compliance forced them to tells me that they thought that they were safe, even though they weren't secure, although they probably wouldn't have described it exactly that way.

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