It’s official. The Mac has viruses, malware, exploits, vulnerabilities, and probably acne. Seriously.
The experts agree. Mac and Windows are both vulnerable to attack. Safeguard your data. Buy something from Symantec.
These headlines pop up every couple of months from a few industry security experts. Except for that last sentence, which is implied, or buried in the story about the latest vulnerability and exploit.
“The Mac is just as vulnerable as Windows,” they say. The “they” come from two camps. One is the camp that wants to sell you software to protect your Mac (or Windows PC), and the other camp usually is a disgruntled security expert, or a hack(er) looking for hits to a blog.
Each camp receives free promotion of their perspective from online tech magazine writers, notorious for their inability to know fact from fiction, up from down, or Windows PCs from Macs.
Here’s the latest headline from James Rivington of Tech magazine. It’s very simple, somewhat alarming, and just plain wrong.
That’s what most readers will remember. Few will remember the subheadline, “Symantec man says small user base is reason for secure rep.”
By that logic, and it sounds plausible, the only reason the Mac doesn’t have viruses, malware, exploits in the wild (the kind you can catch, like a cold), is because the Mac market share is soooooo small, and no decent virus writer cares about creating an exploit for the Mac.
The fantasizing by the so-called journalist doing the reporting for Tech continues with another classic statement, the first in the article:
See? That’s scary. It’s also wrong. Dead wrong. The proof for being correct doesn’t exist. The proof for being incorrect does exist—as in, no viruses or malware on the planet for Macs. Hundreds of thousands of such for Windows PCs.
Again, attribution for the ludicrous premise goes to Symantec’s software architect, Ollie Whitehouse. Sigh. I want to cry. For a week or two after such headlines all my nearly extinct Windows PC buddies cry, “See. Macs have viruses, too.”
Except they don’t. Even some Mac users lament the inevitable as fact, not fiction.
Mac and Windows take different approaches to security. Windows versions prior to Vista were riddled with holes, vulnerabilities, exploits, easily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous in computerdom. Mac OS X’s built in security and permissions set up makes it very difficult for a virus writer to do what is common and comicly easy to do on a Windows PC.
That fact is seldom mentioned by the headline writers or by Symantec or anyone else trying to make a buck off Mac users by using scare tactics.
At a base level, all major operating systems, Mac OS X, Windows (whatever flavor), Linux, (whatever flavor), and the Unix crowd, have vulnerabilities which can be exploited. Therefore, at that level, all operating systems, even Mac and Windows are the same.
The difference is how difficult it is to exploit a vulnerability, how many exploits exist for the various operating systems, how many are in the wild causing destruction or mayhem.
See the difference? Windows has plenty of wild exploits of varying kinds. The Mac has zero. Why? Again, it has to do with architecture and permissions, not market share.
Why would a so-called expert from Symantec say that Macs are just as vulnerable to viruses as Windows when they clearly are not? Symantec sells software to help secure your Mac or PC. Except Mac users don’t need it, and Windows users are leaving Windows PCs in droves to the more secure, more dependable, more usable world of Mac OS X.
The “experts” are crying Wolf! When a true, in-the-wild vulnerability surfaces that can infect millions or even hundreds of thousands or even thousands of Macs, you’ll hear about it. The cry will be much louder than rinky dinky non-thinkyTech magazine trolling for hits; much louder than a Symantec security guru saying “I told you so.”
When it happens, you’ll hear about it loud and clear. Then, check the date and time, and mark the hours before a fix is provided, then compare that response to Microsoft’s response to fixing Windows exploits. Response? Sure. Microsoft decided to sell virus and malware protection rather than fix their software.
Why do Macs have viruses and malware just like Windows PCs? Because those telling you they do have a vested interest in crying Wolf!—more money for them, less money for you.