Maybe I have become a little more paranoid about security on my Mac these days. We’ve all heard of people who’ve had their identity stolen, their credit record messed up, and the grief it caused to fix it.
Today there’s yet another software security firm that says Macs are not safe. There’s also a well-known Mac hacker who says Macs are safer than Windows PCs. Who should a Mac user believe?
The security people who track internet malware, Sophos, says Mac users are not exempt from malware. This is in response to a clever new trojan horse from a web site which claims their media player will help you watch HD TV online.
This particular form of malware is messy because it plays on the innocent Mac user who doesn’t know any better. It’s a trojan horse, not a virus, which means you have to do something to make it do something bad.
Think of it as an increasingly common social engineering trick, since the user has to be tricked into installing the malware on a Mac.
If I were smart enough to write a little script that would erase your Mac’s hard drive, gave it to you and said, “Run this, you’ll be surprised” and you did, who’s to blame?
Actually, both of us. Sophos is merely pointing out that malware exists for Mac users, too, and we shouldn’t be so smug about security, and how about if all Mac users buy security software from Sophos.
Intriguing, no? What can you do to protect you and your Mac? ArsTechnica offers a little common sense advice and explains the nitty gritty advice.
Meanwhile, back in the real world where my Mac and I live is the latest Mac hacker, a multiple winner of Mac hacking contests, who says he’d recommend Macs to typical users as they’re safer than Windows PCs.
This guy, Charlie Miller, a security researcher, hacked a Mac using Safari in a contest last year using an unpatched exploit. Actually, he had two exploits. He used one last year, and saved the other to win the contest again this year.
But he says Macs are safer than Windows. Is that really true, or is he saying that to lead us into a false sense of security while he hacks our Macs from a distance and steals my children’s photos in iPhoto or my Beyonce’ collection from iTunes?
Or, is it possible for someone who knows the right way to do it to hack into my Mac and take my newly updated financial information and crash through my credit card spending limits before I have the chance?
And, if all that’s possible, exactly how is my Mac safer than a Windows PC?
From what I can tell, as an average Mac user with more than my share of PB and J crumbs between the keys of my keyboard, all Macs and PCs have vulnerabilities which have yet to be exploited.
Windows PCs have more exploits that can wreak havoc than Macs. It’s a fact of life. Ergo (I’ve been waiting years to toss that into a sentence), Macs are safer than Windows PCs. The logic is irrefutable, no?
Yes, Microsoft conducts research studies which says Windows is safer than Mac or Linux. But Microsoft lies. I don’t have to buy anti-virus, anti-malware software for my Mac. My neighbor has a Windows PCs and has it running all the time and it still gets infected.
I suspect that it’s her PC that’s sending me 127 spam emails each day with discount prices for Viagra. Discounts on Pampers and Huggies I’ll take.
Your Mac is safer than a PC. But, unless you unplug it and destroy the hard drive under a steam roller, even your Mac is not perfectly safe. Just more so than Windows.
Security compromises are a big, nasty, eventful issue that’s just waiting out there to attack Mac folks. Which raise the question, “How do you practice safe computing?”