Security is something Mac OS X users take for granted, though we’re allowed a brief, smug look when we see our Windows counterparts struggling with new viruses, spyware, and malware—let alone all the applications needed to keep their PC’s ‘clean.’
So far, there are no known ‘in the wild’ viruses for Mac OS X Tiger or Panther. No spyware. No malware. And few applications to find such buggers on your Mac.
Are Mac users secure? If so, why? Will it always be that way?
First, let’s understand that security is relative. If someone is determined, they can get inside your Mac (break into the office, your home, steal your laptop).
Second, it’s much more difficult for someone to crack your Mac from a distance; remotely, through another computer.
Third, the Mac OS is built upon a hardened core of Unix, called BSD, which is used by the military, financial institutions, and large business and is recognized as one of the most secure operating systems. Ever.
For most Windows users, security has taken a different view as thousands of new viruses, spyware, trojan horses, and malware are introduced to the PC world.
Meanwhile, Mac users smirk and gloat, but, hopefully are sufficiently sophisticated that we don’t do too much—no need to raise the target.
Maybe you think your Mac is secure. Maybe it is. Even better is UK security company Sophos who suggests that Apple is the best route toward security for PC users.
Sophos says they tracked almost 16,000 new viruses in 2005. Mac OS X has zero. That’s not because of lower market share, either.
Microsot’s Windows, in every flavor, including the yet-to-be released Windows Vista, attracts hoardes of viruses every day. Why? It’s an easy target with many holes and many users.
How is it possible that there are thousands of new viruses for Windows each year, but none for the Mac.
Again, it boils down to how easy it is to create a virus that works on Windows and how difficult it is to create one that works on the Mac.
Windows viruses mutate just like real viruses that affect humans, so the scourge spreads.
Sophos says last month 1,940 new viruses showed up on Windows. Again, none for the Mac.
Why? Today, many millions of Windows PCs are connected to the internet via always-on broadband connections such as DSL and cable modems.
That ‘always on’ feature means automated ‘sniffers’ can find a Windows PC without a firewall, and can attack and then control the PC.
The Mac’s built-in firewall and other security tools in the OS make it a much more difficult target even when found by a sniffer.
Sophos praises Microsoft for the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 because it adds a built-in firewall to protect users.
Before Service Pack 2, Sophos said an unprotected Windows XP machine was 94-percent likely to be compromised by an attacker.
Even Microsoft says their own surveys show only 30-percent of PC users actually buy, install, and use anti-virus, anti-spyware software.
30-percent of the Windows PC market is a huge industry.
If Microsoft is improving Windows’ security issues, where will attackers turn to gain control over a Windows PC?
Applications. Attackers are increasingly using applications to attack even a protected PC; including Google’s Desktop Search application.
Sophos says there are other options to protect a computer user: a Mac.
Click Here for a look at Sophos information regarding security on Mac and Windows.
Carol Mary Miller
Over 10 years on a Mac and still virus free. I just feel so ‘clean and protected.’
It should be obvious to all why Apple doesn’t tout Mac OS X’s highly regarded security—they don’t want to challenge virus makers. Smart.
I suppose it’s a matter of time before someone creates a way to get into a Mac. Let’s hope Apple stays as diligent as they have so far.