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Project Mad Hatter: More Secure Than Windows?

Peder Ulander, Sun Microsystems' director of marketing for desktop solutions, was recently quoted as saying that the company's Mad Hatter open-source desktop will be more secure than Windows because it is built atop Linux.

In some ways, Ulander is right. But overall, Mad Hatter's security will depend on the software running atop the OS.

Linux generally is more secure than Windows because with Linux, you're not the administrator user of your own system. In routine Linux use, you can access only your user account, not the entire machine. That doesn't mean Linux is foolproof. For instance, Linux lets programs run as root and, therefore, enable systemwide changes. But Linux does have significantly fewer holes than Windows does.

Truth is, there are different types of security. You can't let users download and install plug-ins without running the risk that they will download malicious code.

Microsoft's biggest security problems arise from the deep integration of its products. This has created a dilemma for Microsoft on the desktop--more secure or more integrated? If your e-mail client can display dynamic content, it is susceptible to malicious dynamic content. Sun will have to address this same issue with Mad Hatter.

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