What’s the best operating system for cyber security professionals? In this article, we’ll answer which particular operating systems professionals in the information security industry actually use and which one would be the best for someone starting out. Is any one of them better than the other? Let’s find out.
I am an IT professional who wants to go into cyber security. Should I be using Windows, Apple, or Linux?
In any case, anybody (or any IT professional for that matter) venturing into a cyber security career must be asking this question: What is the best operating system for me to use in cyber security? There are three leading operating systems in the world: Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux (and its various distributions).
Looking at the general population, Statista data states that as of June 2021, Microsoft Windows has the largest chunk of computer users at 72.98%. Coming in second is Apple’s macOS with 15.56% followed by Linux at 2.68% while a slew of other operating systems including Chrome OS make up the final 8.68%.
That’s not to say one OS will always be better than the other. The most important concept to note here is that all of these operating systems can suit any IT professional in any level of the spectrum from beginner to pro.
Each operating system is different. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, any IT professional can definitely work with any (or even all) of them. It all depends on your own preference. Now let’s take a look at the top three:
Because Windows takes up a huge chunk of the OS global market share, that makes it a natural target for malicious hackers due to its massive attack surface. While generally considered less secure versus its other counterparts, Windows isn’t slouching when it comes to security standards and innovation. In fact, Microsoft is known for its proactive stance in releasing updates to consistently secure their operating system.
It’s just that based on the market share data alone, it simply means that malicious hackers have a higher chance of launching successful attacks due to its uber massive install base (we’re talking billions!).
This UNIX-based OS has always been considered to have tighter security over its counterparts. Yes, it is more secure – but it’s not an impenetrable fortress either. It’s safe to say that the number of viruses, malwares, and other threats for the MacOS that are out in the wild are correlated to the popularity of its devices. In fact, threats in the MacOS system have gone up considerably in recent years.
But Apple sets a very high bar in terms of privacy and security. In fact they say it’s one of their core values. One good example of this application is what Apple calls differential privacy.
In addition, Apple has always been stringent about the softwares allowed on its systems. The tech giant restricts users from installing third-party software unless you go through the process of jailbreaking your device which is potentially harmful and voids the warranty and support for your device.
Linux is basically an open-source, modular operating system with a vast number of distributions (or commonly referred to as “distros”). Like the UNIX system, Linux operating systems are capable of advanced multitasking. As an open source software, it has the benefit of having a large community of computer experts looking to find every security vulnerability and issuing a security patch to fix it.
To compare, Linux harnesses the power of a global crowdsourced community to secure its operating system versus proprietary companies (like Microsoft and Apple) relying on its select team of people to cover its bases. That, in effect, potentially makes Linux safer compared to the two.
Linux is the most widely-used operating system in running servers or services such as websites, web apps, and cloud environments. For a handful of cyber security professionals, this one definitely takes the cake.
Case in point: if you’re into Penetration Testing (CPENT) or Ethical Hacking (CEH and EHCS), Linux and its wide array of distros is definitely for you. It’s mainly because softwares and other tools used in this trade are exclusively available to the Linux platform.
But don’t get overwhelmed with the myriad of Linux distros, though. One thing to remember is that almost every operating system for PenTesters and Ethical Hackers is based on Linux. Regardless which one you choose, keep in mind that cyber security professionals each have their own habits or preferences that’s why there are a ton of options. You can look at guides such as this one to help you get started.
All of the operating systems have their own pros and cons. Each one of them have developed comprehensive ways of securing their systems. Bear in mind that the best operating system to choose is best aligned with your or your company’s security goals.
However, as a cyber security professional, Linux has the one up against Windows, MacOS, or any other operating system out there simply because some Linux distros (e.g. Kali Linux) comes preloaded with tools that aid in hacking.
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