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View Full Version : viruses, osx, and how many use it -questions etc


acidrock
Jun 3, 2004, 08:00 PM
I had an interesting conversation with someone I will be working with this summer about the new os x system. His opinion is that the reason there are not many viruses for os x is becasue only about 10% of the population use it, and so that people writing the viruses would want to write them for pc/ windows because more people use it. So I was wondering, I don't know if 10% is an accurate account but was wondering how many people do you think really use the os x system? Also was wondering if you guys agree or disagree with this view? I was always under the impression that os x was more stable and that it had a better user interface than the previous system that made it more stable and less suseptiable (sp) to viruses. Anyway wondering what you guys think about this?

nathan

janey
Jun 3, 2004, 08:03 PM
he's right about the lack of viruses due to the number of users
but the thing is, nobody can calculate market share accurately
we all know Microsoft has a huge chunk, but for all we know, MS could have as little as 60% of the market :p
Apple could have as much as 25%.
It all varies depending on who you listen to and how they calculate it. Usually its by machines/software titles sold, but thats so inaccurate.
and windows isnt exactly more or less stable than OS X.
OS X's flaws arent as criticized as much as Windows.
Plus Apple doesnt have TOO much differences in hardware, but Microsoft has a hard time with thousands of manufacturers and crud like that, makes it a pain in the ass for them to make sure Windows runs well on 90% of all PCs.

reaper
Jun 3, 2004, 08:06 PM
I had an interesting conversation with someone I will be working with this summer about the new os x system. His opinion is that the reason there are not many viruses for os x is becasue only about 10% of the population use it, and so that people writing the viruses would want to write them for pc/ windows because more people use it. So I was wondering, I don't know if 10% is an accurate account but was wondering how many people do you think really use the os x system? Also was wondering if you guys agree or disagree with this view? I was always under the impression that os x was more stable and that it had a better user interface than the previous system that made it more stable and less suseptiable (sp) to viruses. Anyway wondering what you guys think about this?

nathan

I think it's a combination. OS X is definitely more stable than windows, both because of it's UNIX roots and it's looser integration with other apps (a la outlook and explorer in windows) that let fewer flaws be exploited in the OS. Also, I think that the fact that Macs have a low market share definitely plays a role since there wouldn't be much havoc caused by writing a virus for the Mac. However, this latter point is probably going to bite the platform in the butt one day, since you can only go around proclaiming your superiority for so long before someone decides to take you down a peg.

- reaper

sambo.
Jun 3, 2004, 09:51 PM
yuh, it's only a matter of time before a noxious virus causes havoc with Macs.

most of the windoze virusii are just script-kiddie hacks, however i'm sure someone, somewhere has already written something that will take OS-X down. only thing you can do really is keep some anti-virus software updated and make sure you run any patches.

as more corporations move to OS-X, expect to see more virusii entering out lives, it's not a question of "If" it's more "When". :cool:

themadchemist
Jun 3, 2004, 11:07 PM
Keep in mind that if someone really wanted to wreak major havoc on the Internet, it wouldn't be by spreading a virus to a bunch of end users. Rather, a sagacious troublemaker would set his/her sights on the infrastructure. By downing key servers, you cause a lot more problems than by screwing up Jim Bob's computer in Pork Collar, Tennessee.

...And what's the OS of choice for the premium servers out there? That's right, it's 'nix. Therefore, one would imagine that at least a few ambitious rascals would target Unix and Unix-based operating systems so that he/she could crash major hubs of use and operation online.

In this case, you would imagine that Mac OS X, based on a Unix derivative, would actually be a great testing ground for viruses of all kinds.

Why haven't we seen this phenomenon occur? Because Unix is tight, or at least, this is the impression I gather from those who know more about these things than I.

While it is certainly the case that fewer viruses is tied to a great degree to the fewer users, it is also true that Unix is an extremely stable-core on which to build an operating system.

In short, I agree with reaper.

7on
Jun 4, 2004, 11:33 AM
All the marketshare fooey is bull. I mean, if you were a virus writer wouldn't you want the prestige of the virus-free OS having a virus? Sure the virus wouldn't spread because of the low market share, but all virus writers want is their name in the paper. Noone does anything just to see the damage, albeit crazy people do. I'm sure writing the first OSX virus has some bragging writes somewhere.

Hell, the Classic MacOS has more viruses and it had less marketshare than OSX.

Horrortaxi
Jun 4, 2004, 11:48 AM
I could have limited insight into this issue, but I'm thinking that since the internet basically runs on Unix-based software that the virus writer who really wants to cause some damage would target those machines.

If you just need to reach lots of people (say if you make money if 5 out of a million people click on an ad) then Windows offers you the greatest number of people and the worst security--it's a winnning combination. If you want to own a lot of computers to run DNS attacks or something similar then the same theory applies.

I agree that writing the first big OS X virus would be very prestigious. I'm sure there are a lot of people who would want that honor--0.0000000001% market share or not. Some people climb mountains just because they're there.

bryanc
Jun 4, 2004, 12:54 PM
Those who are basically juvenile vandals, just trying to piss people off, and those who are fundamentally interested in exploring computer systems and testing ideas about how they work.

The former type will focus on whatever the dominant platform is, because they want to annoy the largest number of people. Consequently, these miscreants are currently interested only in windows.

The latter type, which is where most novel viruses come from, will generally be more interested in well-designed OSes, like the various flavours of Unix, which includes OS X.

I think the reason we've yet to see an exploit targeting OS X is a combination of the fact that the vandals aren't interested in our small market, and the hackers have either not yet found an exploitable hole (possible, but unlikely), or have chosen not to release anything they've developed into the wild (most of these folk aren't interested in causing damage, and won't release stuff unless the target is sufficiently obnoxious).

If OS X became more widely used, and if Apple started snubbing the Open Source community (where many of the best minds in computing focus their attention), I think exploits would become much more likely. However, as long as Apple behaves as a good corporate citizen, I don't see many, if any, serious security problems emerging, even if OS X becomes more widely deployed.

Cheers

Peyote
Jun 4, 2004, 01:10 PM
Is it possible to write an OSX virus without owning a Mac? I mean I'm sure you could write one for Unix if you own a Unix machine, but could you succefully develop something that will run on OSX without even possessing OSX in the first place? If not, this may be a large reason nobody writes virii for OSX...they don't have macs. And the folks that do have macs enjoy OSX so much that thay'd never want to write a virus to corrupt it. Then again I could be wrong.

MisterMe
Jun 4, 2004, 01:18 PM
All the marketshare fooey is bull. I mean, if you were a virus writer wouldn't you want the prestige of the virus-free OS having a virus? Sure the virus wouldn't spread because of the low market share, but all virus writers want is their name in the paper. Noone does anything just to see the damage, albeit crazy people do. I'm sure writing the first OSX virus has some bragging writes somewhere.

Hell, the Classic MacOS has more viruses and it had less marketshare than OSX.I agree that the marketshare argument is crap. I call it the Whore's Defense. You know: "I'm not a whore, I'm just popular."

The vast majority of MacOS-native viruses are very old, dating back to System 6 and System 7. Two or three exceptions, only Mac malware in the wild in the last several years has been Microsoft Office macroviruses. They affected only Microsoft Office files. Several years ago, there was an issue with QuickTime autoplay, but it was quickly fixed.

Makosuke
Jun 4, 2004, 02:25 PM
bryanc has some good points, and I'll add a couple more thoughts:

One is that, as pointed out, UNIX is in many ways the infrastructure for the Net. Not nearly 100%, but a lot of it, and Linux is a big second part. Which web servers do you see getting compromized most frequently? Microsoft IIS. That's because it's fundamentally less secure, and unlike UNIX doesn't have 20 or so years of experience defending against hackers built-in. It also, unlike Linux and UNIX, doesn't have a huge open source community constantly hunting for and patching security holes. OSX, though partially closed-source, benefits from this history and upkeep, due to its open-source UNIX core.

OSX (or other UNIXes, or Linux) isn't virus-proof, but it is just plain built tougher than Windows.

Furthermore, the "small platform" issue doesn't sufficiently explain why Macs don't see the occasional virus--the unwaranted geek vitrol against Apple and their "toys" and smug Mac users should make us a huge target. However, when somebody eventually does write a Mac virus, our small market share will make us FAR safer than a Windows user, because we lack the critical mass to effectively sustain an epidemic.

If 1 out of every 20 people uses OSX (optimistic), and I get infected, there's a pretty good chance that most of the people the virus randomly sends e-mail to don't even have a Mac. Tight Mac-heavy industries like ad firms would be more prone to outbreaks, but the average user just doesn't have much of a chance of even getting a virus from another Mac user, because he or she probably doesn't know any, and even with the lack of virus protection on a lot of Macs the outbreak would have way more trouble getting any momentum going.

Finally, Peyote makes another good point: even if somebody wants to take us Mac users down a notch, he's not only going to have to bother to write a virus that'll infect us, but he's got to get his hands on a Mac to write it, and familiarize himself enough with the internals of the OS to write something effective. Most basement hackers aren't going to put that much time into the effort.

And heck, if they did, they'd probably end up liking their new Mac so much theyd' never release the virus. ;)

sambo.
Jun 5, 2004, 09:55 AM
I agree that the marketshare argument is crap. I call it the Whore's Defense. You know: "I'm not a whore, I'm just popular."

The vast majority of MacOS-native viruses are very old, dating back to System 6 and System 7. Two or three exceptions, only Mac malware in the wild in the last several years has been Microsoft Office macroviruses. They affected only Microsoft Office files. Several years ago, there was an issue with QuickTime autoplay, but it was quickly fixed.


yuh;
the virus that cooked the e-mail msg store on my G3/333 lappy (OS 9.2 at the time) came to me through Outlook Express (although where exactly the "express" bit comes in is a mystery).

i hope there is an import filter for Word docs into Indesign so i can have a microsoft free world once the revision is announced....... :confused:

sethwerkheiser
Jun 5, 2004, 11:33 AM
Some interesting insight:

http://daringfireball.net/2004/06/broken_windows

Written by John Gruber:

But is it fair to judge Mac-v.-Windows under factory-fresh conditions? Wouldnít an accurate comparison be better made a few months down the road ó after a nice sampling of the hundreds of new Windows viruses discovered each week get a chance to find a home on the Windows box? In the hands of a typical user, a six-month-old Mac is almost certainly in similar working condition as when it left the store; a six-month-old Windows PC, on the other hand, is likely to be infested with multiple instances of crapware. And if itís not, itís likely because the poor sap who bought it just got done reinstalling from scratch.

7on
Jun 5, 2004, 03:00 PM
Yeah. I'm always baffled by threads on the boards asking how to reinstall OSX. I'm always like "why?"

But oh well.

janey
Jun 5, 2004, 08:25 PM
Yeah. I'm always baffled by threads on the boards asking how to reinstall OSX. I'm always like "why?"

OS X is not perfect :\
sometimes there are little corrupted files here, bad software there.
my 'books seem WAAYYY faster after reinstaling OS X.