Will virus and spyware attacks end? With nearly 30-million Mac OS X users online there are still no virus, spyware, or malware attacks in public.
Will such attacks ever hit OS X? Are Mac users prepared for an attack that can be propagated from Mac to Mac? Perhaps not, and I don’t think so.
It is quite possible that Mac OS X, Mac users, will never see a publicly widespread attack of viruses, spyware, trojan horses, or malware of a malicious nature.
After all, OS X has been out for years already. There are nearly 30-million Mac OS X users and still no attacks of note, those “in the wild.” Why?
Part of the dearth of OS X malware has to do with the permissions structure inherent to OS X. Malware of any sort just isn’t easy to spread Mac to Mac.
Meanwhile, Windows XP, up until the last Service Pack, was a Swiss Cheese fortress with more holes for attack than hackers had time to fill. They were simply too busy reaping what they’ve sewn from holes, so to speak.
What got me here was Mac360’s observation and condemnation of the term “virus” for the first iPod virus proof of concept (as if there’s some federal agency which checks the code to determine viral authenticity).
Despite a growing number of threats to, and an increasing number of vulnerabilities in, Mac OS X, there just isn’t much malware for Mac users to worry about. Yet.
As to the first question, “will such attacks ever hit OS X?” allow me to answer with an unqualified, “I don’t think so.” Why or why not?
Look what Apple has done with AppleTV. For all intents and purposes, AppleTV is OS X. In many households, as it is with Macs connected to the internet today, AppleTV will just sit there and work with nary a worry about security breaches despite free access to the internet.
If Apple isn’t too worried, why should I be worried? Come to think of it, that’s exactly why I should be worried, or at least concerned, or at the very least, considerate of the possibilities.
Publicly, Apple isn’t too worried. In fact, Apple appears giddy about security and lambasts Microsoft’s lack of a secure reputation in ads, TV ads, printed material and online.
Behind the scenes, though, Apple’s engineers take very seriously the threats from viruses, spyware, and malware of any kind. Should you? The obvious answer is “yes, I should take security as a serious issue.” But how?
That is easier said than done. Do a search on MacUpdate for “virus” and see what you get. There’s not a dozen utilities that have anything to do with virus threats on the Mac.
One of those is a free scanner for root kits, a particularly insidious form of malware often seen on Unix-like systems, of which Mac OS X is one.
There’s all the Norton and Virux latest virus definitions and, well, a few other utilities which haven’t been updated since about 2005. Why? No viruses. They’re tools to scan your Mac for malware that, for the most part, doesn’t exist yet.
As to the second question, “are Mac users prepared for a malware attack of any kind?” The answer is both yes and no. If you’ve been keeping up with your OS X updates and security updates, you’re probably as prepared as anyone.
And, no, if and when a truly malicious form of malware—a virus, or spyware, or trojan horse—should get in the wild and propagate across the internet between Mac users, we’re not prepared, and we’ll be hurting bad and smarting worse.
We’ll hurt from the damage to our Macs, however little that may be. We’ll be smarting even more as we join the ranks of Windows PC users who have been persecuted seeminly forever at the hands of malware writers.
It’s a dark, cold, hard world out there. The law of big numbers may catch up to Mac users one day. Until then, I’m not living a paranoid life, but I do practice safe computing and I’m willing to learn new computing positions to remain flexible and lead a healthy online life.
What about you? What’s your plan to avoid viruses, spyware, trojans, and other malware on your Mac? Do you scan for various and sundry malware? What tools do you use? Share your experience with other Mac users in the Comments section below.