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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: Antivirus is a scam and a waste of time
By AssBall on 12/2/2008 12:04:01 PM , Rating: 1
I agree completely. 50$ a year to make your computer slower.... brilliant. Windows security updates solve most of any virus issues alone.

10+ years ago there was such a huge scare and proliferation of viruses that IT people smartened up and wrote more secure code. Since then Norton and McAfee have been riding the wave of morons that bought into all the hype and disinformation (made me think of Swordfish, which was one of the dumbest movies ever, BTW).

Are viruses and security a huge concern for companies? You bet your ass. This is a big reason why we have IT departments now for even small companies.

For the home user though... well I guess (wish) they were just a little bit more educated and/or responsible. How can one crap all over Windows defender and refrain from pointing fingers at the rediculous limitations a 3rd party antivirus application throws down on your system? In the end the average person understands NEITHER.

But this doesn't stop people from operating a vehicle without having a clue about physics or blood alcohol imparement. This is why highways are regulated. Do not misunderstand, I do not like regulation of any kind in general. However, with more retards and assholes online every day, I think more and more that perhaps some form of regulation wouldn't be such a bad idea. The problem I see is that any regulation(s) will be formulated by those same retards and assholes.

More thoughts?


By CrazyBernie on 12/6/2008 10:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
I use AVG. It doesn't bog down my system, and it's free. At the rate that viruses have been proliferating it's better to be safe than sorry.

I equate it to the people who drive around with no car insurance insisting that they'll never get into an accident because they're "safe" drivers.


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