The other day I was talking with my cousin and she asked how I liked my MacBook Pro. She told me all the cool things she had heard. A friend of hers said that with a Mac you don’t ever need to buy anything like “Norton” cause Macs don’t get viruses. She asked me if that was true and in reality it is a two part answer.
Here is the classic ad on Apple & viruses:
This is what I like to call a classic “misleading.” Here are my points:
1) Macs Have Fewer Viruses – True
This is absolutely true. There are hundreds of thousands of viruses each for the PC, and it is only escalating. Numbers can be misleading, as many of the viruses are almost identical, just slightly tweaked for the viruses creator. However, PC holds a MUCH higher market share. 80% percent at least. Apple has climbed to 16% of sales in 2008, Q1. What does this mean? OS X has been used by the minority for a very long time. However, it is gaining more and more popularity. Apple sold 66% of high end computers costing $1,000+ in Q1. It is definitely moving to be mainstream and not obscure.
This increase in users will, undoubtedly, causes the Mac to increase as a potential target. Especially if Mac users think they are invincible.
2) Macs Are Virus Proof – False
This is absolutely false. Like any other operating system, Macs can be targeted, exploited, and compromised, especially if users are not careful. At the moment, there are some severe mac exploits going around, and in many ways a lot worse than Windows exploits.
Intego has posted an advisory titled OSX.Trojan.PokerStealer Trojan Horse to their website. The trojan horse is a script wrapped in an executable bundle. Once launched, the script will prompt the user for his password, and turn on SSH for outside attackers to gain access to the system.
Security Alert: SecureMac has discovered multiple variants of a new Trojan horse in the wild that affects Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5. AppleScript.THT Trojan Horse runs hidden on the system, and allows a malicious user complete remote access to the system, can transmit system and user passwords, and can avoid detection by opening ports in the firewall and turning off system logging. Additionally, the AppleScript.THT Trojan horse can log keystrokes, take pictures with the built-in Apple iSight camera, take screenshots, and turn on file sharing. The Trojan horse exploits a recently discovered vulnerability with the Apple Remote Desktop Agent, which allows it to run as root. Read more.
Security Alert: Mac OS X root escalation exploit code in the wild.
These exploits are just with the last few weeks.
The problem is the false sense of security that “normal” users are having with Macs. For a long time, Macs were for fan-boys and professionals. The average user never would have owned a Mac. That is changing. There are so many “average” users using Mac now that it poses a threat, especially if they believe they are virus proof. I mean, are we going to have to re-train every Mac user to not open unknown attachments and be careful of what they download from the Internet?
I’ll give Apple credit, there are a lot of aspects of OS X that make it more secure by nature. This in many ways is due to their use of FreeBSD as the underling OS. So in many ways, yes a Mac is a lot more secure than a Windows PC, but you still have to be careful. The more Mac owners there are, the more attention they will get from hackers, especially if the Mac owners are ignorant.
How to Be Safe
Here are some very simple ways to stay safe:
- Look at getting an Anti-Virus. This will go a long way. Many people suggest Intego.
- Download only trusted applications from trusted websites.
- Avoid Piracy and Illegal Torrents. Many times this is where hackers place viruses.
- Don’t view sensitive material on the Internet when connected to a public Wi-Fi spot.
- Keep your Mac OS X up to date. Apple has been pretty good at staying up to date.
Just remember, just because it is a Mac doesn’t mean its virus free.