Print 107 comment(s) - last by Smilin.. on Dec 8 at 9:51 AM

Sadly, even Macs need to practice computer safety these days.  (Source: GameSpot)
Macs are not the virus-free playground they once were, says Apple

Most computer users take buying or otherwise obtaining antivirus software protection for granted as part of normal computer maintenance.  However, users of Apple's Macs, while being greatly in the minority compared to PCs for years have most gone with no virus protection.  Apple even supported this belief, through ads indicating that Macs don't get viruses.  And while Apple's software security-related patching rate is among the worst in the industry, for years Apple was mostly right; its computers just didn't get targeted in great numbers by malicious users.

Recently, however, Mac has been building up a slightly larger market share, thanks to multiple months in the number 3 computer retailer spot.  While PCs still greatly outnumber Macs, there are now many more Macs, and that spells trouble for Mac security.  This growing problem is exacerbated by Apple's poor patching as was demonstrated at a recent hacker convention, in which an Apple machine was easily compromised a full day before Linux and Windows machines could be.

Now Apple has recognized this new problem and for the first time is recommending its users install antivirus software.  A little notice popped up on its support website, entitled "Mac OS: Antivirus utilities".  In the page Apple states, "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult."

Apple goes on to suggest three products -- Intego VirusBarrier X5 and Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh, both available from the Apple Online Store, and McAfee VirusScan for Mac.  Just three months ago Brian Krebs, who first noticed the notice and reported on it in Washington Post, bought a MacBook and was told by Apple employees that he didn't need antivirus software.

Similarly, Apple ads like this have long indicated that Apple is immune to viruses.

So what caused Apple to change its tune?  One major factor appears to be the rise in non-OS attacks.  While Apple's base OS is relatively secure, many of its programs, both Apple and third party have numerous vulnerabilities; among them Flash and Apple's Safari web browser.  Dave Marcus, director of security research and communications at McAfee states, "Apple is realizing that malware these days is targeting data, and valuable data exists just as much on an OS platform that is a Mac as it does on an OS platform that is Windows."

Apple is likely also conscious of the increasingly strong security from Microsoft, and its possible effect on its own users.  With Microsoft beefing up its patching system, adding more OS security layers, and offering free antivirus and malware protection for Windows Vista in mid-2009, hackers may turn to easier hijack Mac computers as a source of bots for botnets or other malicious schemes.

One type of malicious program Apple is particularly vulnerable to is password-stealing Trojans.  Explains Mr. Marcus, "The malware we see today is Trojans, password-stealing Trojans," Marcus said. "They are little apps that are dropped onto the machine to do something. They don't infect files and copy themselves. They are looking for specific information and they send that information somewhere else."

Several such Trojans have popped up, such as the AppleScript.THT Trojan, and another one that targeted Mac users searching pornographic sites.

Apple also has to worry about its adoptees -- Microsoft Office for Mac and Firefox for Mac, both popular targets of exploits.

While some, particularly Mac users may find Apple's new announcement surprising, Mr. Marcus says at the end of the day, it is merely an acknowledgment of reality.  He continues, "At the end of the day, they're (Apple is) advising people to be safe and take precautions.  That's a prudent thing to tell people in Web 2.0 world."

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Big Deal
By kelmon on 12/2/2008 11:14:05 AM , Rating: -1
When something real appears that I should be worried about, then I'll consider taking Apple's advice but for the meantime the only things that have appeared are either tests or require you install the malware.

The sky is not falling in and I am not buying anti-virus software for no reason.

Frankly, those people installing software downloaded from dodgy porn sites deserve what they get. The only news here is that Apple has admitted that malware for the Mac exist rather than there is actually a threat worth taking seriously.

RE: Big Deal
By TomZ on 12/2/2008 11:43:19 AM , Rating: 2
The purpose of Apple's disclaimers/warnings is to help avoid the likely future scenareo where a Mac mainstream virus hits and affected users bring a class action suit against Apple because they claimed their products were somehow magically free from the possibility of viruses.

RE: Big Deal
By kelmon on 12/2/2008 12:22:37 PM , Rating: 2
That's probably quite a sensible suggestion and another reason to ignore this story altogether. If Apple's legal department is anything like ours then this is based more on fear of a problem by the company itself than a problem itself that may or may not exist.

Please preserve us from lawyers...

RE: Big Deal
By Smilin on 12/2/2008 5:55:53 PM , Rating: 2

The purpose of Apple's disclaimers/warnings is to help avoid the likely future scenareo where a Mac mainstream virus hits and affected users bring a class action suit against Apple because they claimed their products were somehow magically free from the possibility of viruses.

I think it's a bit late for that. Apple has shown a pattern of deceptive advertising. If someone can get a million bucks for a coffee scorched penis they'll surely get some money out of the "mac dude".

Think about some of those ads: making fun of "pc guy" as he sneezes from a cold. Implying the "secret service agent" UAC guy is useless etc..

RE: Big Deal
By jimbojimbo on 12/2/2008 1:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
So following your logic every updated Windows user should uninstall their antivirus programs until a new worm first appears before installing it again? Makes no sense.

The reason their announcemnt is such a big deal is because one of their biggest selling points was that it was completely virus free. Their target consumers were mostly computer-illiterate people, the very same people willing to click on anything especially moreso now that they have a computer that's supposedly virus proof.

You don't need a worm before this could cause problems. You just need a lot of stupid people, people that purchase more on fad and fashion than with thought.

RE: Big Deal
By kelmon on 12/3/2008 7:10:47 AM , Rating: 2
Hey, do what you like. What I am saying is that I do not perceive ANY threat and therefore I don't see the need to install a virus scanner. I don't think aliens are trying to read my mind so I'm not wearing a tin hat, either.

I know that loads of people here would absolutely love to see the Mac OS infested with malware so they can all have a good laugh and I have never understood that puerile attitude. But the fact remains that there is absolutely nothing out there to worry a Mac user whereas Microsoft is currently getting everyone to install an emergency patch for Windows and the criminals are attempting to build themselves another botnet. So why we are even talking about a hypothetical situation is quite beyond me...

RE: Big Deal
By omnicronx on 12/2/2008 2:23:22 PM , Rating: 2
I don't use antivirus software with Vista, but thats because I am the only one using the computer and i know what to download and not what to download. Same can be said for Mac.

I think what Apple is trying to say is now that they have 8-10% marketshare, people are actually creating viruses and malware for OSX.

I'm just waiting for an 'I told you so' from Microsoft, after all these years of Apple parading that they dont get viruses, when everyone (including them) knew it was because of a lack of marketshare. If linux suddenly had a 10% share I would expect the same thing.

The fact that Apple is becomming the prefered home OS for many also does not help things. 9 times out of 10 its a home user that will contract a virus or malware as people are willing to do things they would not do at work.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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