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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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RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By theapparition on 12/2/2008 11:48:15 AM , Rating: 5
What has Apple ever had which has brought nuclear power plant safety computers to their knees? Exactly.

And what nuclear power plant safety computers use Mac? Exactly.


RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By Gzus666 on 12/2/2008 11:52:40 AM , Rating: 5
I will take this further, what important anything uses a Mac? Nothing.

RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By kelmon on 12/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By Gzus666 on 12/2/2008 12:31:14 PM , Rating: 5
Supercomputers? Really? Could you show one that actually ranks in the top 10, top 20 even? A novelty to say they did it at best.

I can barely see OS X on that chart, can you? That is probably cause it is hanging out on the 0% of the top 500 supercomputers. It's almost like they suck, who would have thought?

RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By omnicronx on 12/2/2008 2:51:47 PM , Rating: 4
Now that OSX runs on Intel CPU's, you would have to be stupid to use OSX in a supercomputer. Why on earth would anyone pay a bunch of money to get marked up PC hardware just so they can use OSX, which isnt suited for multicore use on the scale that these super computers need anyways.

Heck most of these systems don't even run windows, they are likely unix based (running their own specialized and probably free version of their chosen Unix OS).

OSX is a bloated version of Unix, and is well suited for home use and thats about it, I really hope this discussion never comes up again.

RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By jiteo on 12/2/2008 9:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone else think it's weird the Unix and Linux lines are symmetrical?

RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By kelmon on 12/3/08, Rating: -1
RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By Headfoot on 12/6/2008 3:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
Just a related comment, nowadays you can buy 10 Radeon 4870X2's and have more Teraflops of "theoretical" performance for $5500.


RE: Hi I'm a MAC
By nerdboy on 12/3/2008 7:36:27 AM , Rating: 1
“Anyway, the moral of this story is to check your facts before dismissing something you personally don't like.”

Speaking of checking the facts, where is the link to this information? If you’re going to type something outrageous about Mac supercomputers please provide a link so that you don’t look like a Mac fanboy. Otherwise I wish the rating system would not stop at -1.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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