FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, and a new “D”—Disinformation (thanks to a Mac360 reader). That’s the world in which Macs seek to increase market share.
What’s the problem and who’s behind the misinformation era of 2006?
Former Windows user and Mac afficianado Michael Kenney of New York brings us Part 2 of Macs and Viruses. Fact vs. FUD.
Now that Macs are getting more popular, aren’t virus writers going to start attacking the Mac more?
Increased visibility of an Operating System does not automatically mean an increase in malware attacks. Limited visibility also means that an OS will not be attacked. This myth is called “Obscurity vs. Security”, and it has been proven false many times.
For example, the 64-bit version of Windows was released as a public Beta to some 10,000 testers, and within a couple days, 5 true viruses had appeared for it. Mac OS has been out for 5 years with 30-million+ users, and so far, it has only had 3 proof-of-concepts and 2 unsuccessful trojans.
Going back to my first point, it is much tougher to write a virus to successfully attack a Mac. You’d have to really know what you’re doing to write successful malware for the Mac OS.
Most malware afflicting Windows is not written by the attacker. It is, in most cases, code that is modified by users known as ‘script kiddies’. These are generally not kids, but usually users with limited or no code writing experience. They take existing malware, modify it (sometimes using kits downloaded from the internet) and then release it. They did not write it, they just used existing malware that exploits known vulnerabilities in Windows to spread new versions of old problems.
To create something that would successfully attack the Mac, a person would have write the entire malware program from scratch, and would have to know the Mac OS intimately enough to know how to affect it in a major, damaging way.
They’d also have to know how to get around the security built into the OS, a trick that many experts deem extremely difficult, if not completely unlikely.
Mac users now have to purchase and run Anti-virus software, install firewalls and scan their computers for spyware the same as Windows users.
Although these things would be advisable to make sure Mac users are good netizens, it is simply not true that they have to do them. Since there are currently no successful malware attacks in the wild, the Mac is currently enjoying a relatively trouble-free existence online.
It is true, however, that a Mac user can accidentally pass on a file which is infected with a Windows virus or trojan.
While this malware does not affect the Mac, it can infect a Windows PC.
Mac users should demonstrate good practices and use a Virus Scanning tool to find and remove Windows malware from files before passing them onto Windows computers. ClamXav is a popular, free anti-virus program for Mac OS X.
It does not make any sense to pay $40-$60 for an Antivirus program while there are still no Mac viruses in the wild, only to protect Windows computers from infected files. ClamXav does an effective job and does not cost a dime.
Currently there are no known Spware/Adware problems affecting Mac OS X, so there is no reason to run Spyware tools yet. Some day there will be a need, but not at the moment.
Security is the buzzword for computing these days. No computer Operating System can ever guarantee 100% security, but Mac OS X has provided better security than Windows, even straight out of the box.
Apple’s fast response to found vulnerabilities has kept them ahead of the materialization of any possible threats. Common sense must also prevail to help combat phishing scams and social engineering tricks. We Mac users are supposed to be more educated, intelligent and financially secure, aren’t we?
One more advantage that Mac users have that is hardly ever mentioned is our sense of community. If a real threat ever does surface, Mac users will scrutinize it, share findings with each other, and offer help & solutions to the community at large.
Bambi’s Note: Our deepest thanks to Michael Kenney and Thomas Coppinger for providing a series of great articles. We have a few other guest writers on board to help the staff while Tera remains ill, and Alexis remains a new mommy.