What do Security-Conscious People Choose?

Andrew Jaquith
Andrew Jaquith ∙ Managing Director, Markerbench
3 min read ∙ May 22, 2007

At security conferences and events, I have noticed that the distribution of operating systems seems to differ somewhat from what I read in the papers. As my last post showed, the Internet Identity Workshop skewed decidedly in the Mac direction.

I thought it would be fun to put together a quick poll asking the members of the securitymetrics.org mailing what operating systems they used. I sent out a note asking the membership to respond to two simple questions:

  • What is the operating system and e-mail client you use at work?
  • What is the operating system and e-mail client you use at home (or for personal activities)?

I’ve compiled some preliminary statistics for your reading pleasure. Thanks to the 27 people who responded out of a total membership of about 300. That’s nearly a 10% response rate in less than a day — not bad at all!

Objectives and Methodology

The goal of this little survey was to try and figure out if self-selected, security conscious people had a preference for operating systems or e-mail clients that differed markedly from the mainstream.

I’ve compiled operating system and e-mail statistics from three related sources:

  • Responses to my previous e-mail (27 replies) — what is your operating system and e-mail client at work and at home?
  • Analysis of e-mail “X-Mailer” and related headers from the securitymetrics.org mailing list (20 June 2006 to present)
  • Analysis of same from metricon@securitymetrics.org traffic (i.e., paper submissions) (31 March 2006 to present)

In total, I identified 170 people who have contributed to this mailing list or sent submissions to Metricon 1.0 and 2.0. Of those, 27 provided OS/email information to me directly; I relied on header analysis for the remaining 143.

In total, I was able to identify a “preferred” operating system (either the one specified as the ‘home’ OS in a direct e-mail to me, or the one identified in the header) for 93 people. I identified e-mail programs for 131 people.

Operating Systems

For respondents who contacted me directly, and specified their work OS (n=27), Windows was the majority OS.

OS X726%

For home (n=28), the results are quite different:

OS X1346%

Of the 27 respondents, 14 (55%) reported using a different OS at home compared to work. After taking into account X-Mailer headers, I’ve concluded that for members of this list (“security conscious people”), we can conclude that when they have a choice, our members slightly prefer Macs. Results (n=92):

OS X3942%

Amazingly enough, this suggests that Windows is a minority operating system, at least on this list.

E-Mail Clients

For respondents who specified their work e-mail client (n=27), Microsoft Outlook was the majority client.

Apple Mail311%

For home (n=28), the results are, once again, quite different — and quite diverse:

Apple Mail621%
Google Mail311%

Of the 28 respondents, nearly 2/3 (17 or 63%) specified a different home e-mail client compared to the one they used at work. After analysis of X-Mailer headers is taken into account (n=131), I conclude that our members prefer webmail overall, and prefer free (and non-Microsoft) native clients.

Google Mail2318%
Apple Mail2015%
Lotus Notes108%

Interesting, no? Statistically relevant — maybe not! Let the debates begin in earnest!