Survey Says Developers Believe Linux Is More Secure

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Print this article Print


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A new study says Linux is regarded as the most secure operating system by a substantial number of business developers—including Windows developers.

Is Linux built more securely than Windows? According to a new survey, Windows and Linux developers both say yes—and for the first time, ranked it ahead of Windows XP.

The September 2003 study from market-research firm Evans Data Corp. surveyed more than 500 North American participants, including VARs, ISVs, OEMs and corporate developers, according to Esther Schindler, senior analyst with Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Evans.

Linux scored high for innate security among respondents, more than two- thirds of whom "use or target Windows with their code." Indeed, only 23 percent of the developers were primarily Linux developers (an increase of 4 percent from a similar survey six months ago).

"It's not all that surprising that Linux is viewed as more secure by software developers," Schindler said. "Windows has had nearly weekly critical security updates from Microsoft, and three of four developers target Windows. Development experience talks."

Windows XP, the winner the last time around as the most secure operating system, dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent in the new study. Indeed, Schindler said, 22 percent of XP developers picked Linux for security, compared with only 12 percent of that group's votes.

Server 2003 now takes second place to Linux with an overall vote of 12 percent, even though "it's only being used by a handful of developers," Schindler said.

That handful, however, believes strongly in the relatively new Server OS, she said. "Linux is considered the most secure by all developer segments, except one. Among enterprise developers, 17 percent say that Windows 2003 is the most innately secure OS, and only 13 percent choose Linux."

Overall confidence in Linux is growing. In a fall 1999 survey, only 34 percent of developers felt the OS was ready for mission-critical applications, compared with 64 percent today.

It's not just Linux, though. Open source is also gaining ground in business-development circles. In spring 2001, only 38 percent of developers used any open-source software modules. Today, Evans has found that 62 percent of developers are incorporating open-source code in their applications.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor of eWEEK.com's Linux & Open Source Center and Ziff Davis Channel Zone. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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