Mac myths: virus immunity

Apple still touts the Mac's supposed immunity to viruses as an advantage over Windows
Apple still touts the Mac's supposed immunity to viruses as an advantage over Windows
An inconvenient truth, indeed:

For the first time, Apple is recommending the use of anti-virus tools to protect Mac systems.

Long something of a phantom menace, strains of malware capable of infecting Mac machines have gradually been increasing in prevalence over recent months. In addition, VXers are making more use of web-based attack and applications specific vulnerabilities to infect PCs whatever their underlying operating system might be.

Windows-specific malware attacks are still orders of magnitude greater than assaults on Mac machines, but the risk to Apple fans is now enough for the Church of Jobs to admit a risk exists.

The admission that security scanner software was a good idea for Mac users came in an unheralded update to Apple’s support site made on 21 November, first picked up by Brian Krebs at Security Fix on Monday.

Apple goes further than just recommending the use of one scanner to advise the use of multiple tools. “Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple anti-virus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult,” it said.

The supposed invulnerability of Macs to viruses has long been a selling point and marketing mantra for Macs’ superiority over the Windows world – as the screenshot I’ve taken of’s “Why a Mac” page demonstrates (see above). The idea that you need two anti-virus tools by Apple’s own recommendation is actually pretty funny; if I were Microsoft I’d cut an ad saying that the Mac platform is so unstable, just one virus scanner doesn’t cut it!

2 thoughts on “Mac myths: virus immunity”

  1. The supposed immunity was really just a dubious advantage of using a minority platform. With so few Macs around, it wasn’t worthwhile for virus writers to target the platform.

  2. agreed. I also suspect that virus writers were biding their time, figuring that a lack of security threats would leave the platform wide open for when its market share was substantially larger – Apple played right into their hands with their marketing approach.

    It would not surprise me to learn that a substantial number of Macs are already part of a botnet or are compromised in some fashion. It’s the classic security-via-obscurity model.

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