Are 64-bit Windows inherently safer?

Microsoft has discovered a way to create the illusion that Windows 7 is more secure than its predecessors simply because it has a 64-bit version of the OS.

As Joe Faulhaber of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center writes in a blog post, the 64-bit version not only makes computers run faster and use more memory, but it’s safer because, among other things, “64-bit malware is still exceedingly rare in the wild”.

Computerworld reports that Alfred Huger, vice president of engineering at security start-up Immunet begs to differ. “There’s a lot of 64-bit malware. They can run their code in compatibility mode, or they can compile it for 64-bit. The reason they’re not is that there’s still not a lot of 64-bit deployment. There’s 64-bit malware out there, just like there’s Mac OS malware out there. But right now, [64-bit] is just not as opportune a target as 32-bit.”

What it means is that the 64-bit OS is not inherently safer than the 32-bit version. It just means it’s less likely to be targeted for the time being, and consequently, the rates of infection are lower at present. Another possible reason for the lower infection rates is that 64-bit OS’ are more likely to be used by users with more technical know-how and, therefore, more knowledgeable about steps to take to avoid their machines getting infected.

Well, it has to be noted that Faulhaber acknowledged that even the 64-bit version needs security software to stop viruses and other threats. What shouldn’t come as a surprise is that he recommended Microsoft’s anti-malware solution for the job.

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