Apple Changes Its Tunes on Viruses

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacBytes, Aug 25, 2006.

  1. macrumors bot

    Jul 5, 2003
  2. Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    His theory that Mac should have had 5700 viruses last year since Macs have 5% marketshare, and since they didn't Macs must be inherently more secure is bunk. I'm not saying I disagree with the conclusion, but his assertion is ridiculous. Methinks that OS marketshare and viruses aren't directly proportional...if a hacker is going to take the time to write a virus, they want the maximum amount of impact. That comes by affecting as many computers as possible, which means going after Windows.

    I know, there's the theory that the fame of writing a legitimate Mac virus should be a pretty good draw, but Pogue's data has a lot of holes in does not (necessarily) mean what he thinks it means.
  3. macrumors G4


    May 26, 2005
    Working for MI-6
    Interesting article, I for one enjoyed Apple's swipe(s) at PeeCee's and their number of available viruses. :D :)

    The first part of the paragraph uses some fuzzy logic, but I agree with the second part. :)
  4. Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    I think it's pretty well known that there are a couple of security holes available in Mac OS X but it would take more research than most hackers care to do.

    There is a lot more information available on Windows' vulnerabilities and you can find lots of code hanging out on the web.

    Someone could write some horrendous exploits for Mac OS X, if they were willing to put some effort into it, but they'd still have to get past the initial security and I've only heard of one user willing to give an exploit access to his Mac.
  5. macrumors 68020


    Apr 12, 2005
    Moorestown, NJ
    Obviously we know that Windows has loads of exploited (and exploitable) vulnerabilities, but i find it hard to believe that Apple's OSX would still be nearly virusless if they had Microsoft's marketshare. Let's face facts; the main reason OSX has so few viruses is that hackers don't waste their time on such a small user base when they can do so much more damage to Windows machines. In fact, why even bother learning about Mac OSX to attack it? So in that regard, the ease to Windows hacking over OSX hacking i would say holds truth, but i don't believe it is that OSX has so few holes and so much better security with executable files, etc. that it has less attacks.
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Dec 7, 2003
    Houston, TX
    No, no, no...
    Do you realize how many people want to create a virus to prove all of us "smug" mac users that are computers are not really invincible? A lot. Believe me, people have tried very hard to create a Mac virus, or even exploit bugs. I don't think any of them have succeeded. The airport bug in the MacBooks was proven false (the wireless card was 3rd party and the drivers were bad), and the trojan thing on MacRumors did not spread by itself and did not do much harm (if any).

    Not all virus writers just want to affect the most number of people. I am sure many people would love to be known for making the first successful Mac Virus.
  7. macrumors 604


    Feb 7, 2002
  8. macrumors 68030


    May 7, 2002
    2 Much Infinite Loops
    i believe i have read many many years ago, that mac users are generally a well educated group. the switchers are also well educated or are educating themselves.

    we are smug because we know what we are doing.

    i would continue paying for apple software and hardware and pay the premium, so apple can keep everything stable, easy and secure.
  9. macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    The numbers thing is not directly proportional, no--there are many factors involved of course. But the general point is valid: if it's only about target size, it should be some number bigger than zero! Obscurity does NOT explain that zero.

    There are many reasons to attack Windows. But there ARE reasons to attack Macs too. And still the zero.... because Macs ARE more secure by design.

    A more technically-informed article on the subject:

    (Besides, the "obscurity factor" is a GOOD thing. We won't lose that benefit for many years, so why treat it as a bad thing? It's not the ONLY factor that makes Macs safer, but it helps. And even if it WERE the only reason Macs are safer, it's still a reason to buy a Mac: most of the targets in the world will still run Windows, for years to come. So even someone ignorant enough to think Macs are only secure by obscurity, should still want to get a Mac and be more secure. Security by obscurity is not an anti-Mac argument, it's simple a pro-Mac argument that isn't complete.)
  10. macrumors 603


    Sep 6, 2002
    Houston, TX
    The Mac OS wasn't so much "rebuilt" as it was moved to a better but old architecture. Microkernels and the *nix operating system model/paradigm are as old as Windows, easily...

    All that to say, Windows isn't just POS because it hasn't been redesigned since its inception--it's POS because the original design was POS, as have been the refinements. OS X is reaping the benefits of an old, well proven security model. And that's just awesome.
  11. macrumors G4


    Jan 20, 2004
    looking through rose-tinted spectacles...
    I disagree. The majority of viruses/spyware/trojans these days that affect windows are written/designed by large groups of people who want to make money out if whether by selling botnets, spamming stock details, phishing accounts, blackmailing companies. They want the maximum ROI - and that's windows.

    I believe there are holes in OS X but without the market share to exploit those weaknesses, the 'big boys' aren't interested. The real geeks out there who find these holes; are they malicious enough to want to open Pandora's box on another platform? With the current climate in terms of going after those who create malware with criminal procedures, would it be worth the bragging rights if they had to admit it? Or do they report to Apple and get the credit in the next Security Update?
  12. macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    Very true but if there were viruses now for OS X then there would be less switchers which would mean more people would stay on Windows where they are easier to exploit for botnets.
  13. macrumors 604


    Feb 7, 2002
    Thanks for clearing that up. Either way I knew Windows had gone wrong somewhere down the line.

  14. macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Very true--that's the MAJORITY of hackers. But it's not the only thing ALL of them are interested in. Prestige, challenge, and yes, taking Mac users down a peg, ARE motivating factors for some. A large number even, just nowhere near AS large as the number focussed on profit alone. And for that matter, taking down Macs would support the kind of organized criminal employment you mention:

    * If the mob is thinking of hiring you for their next virus, having the first real-world attack on Macs is going to look pretty good on your resume!

    * Mac users are a desirable demographic and an untapped one. Not just for software developers but for identity thieves and hackers too.

    There ARE holes--I've never heard anyone suggest otherwise--but they are fewer, harder to exploit, easier to block, and have less potential for harm once exploited. OS X is not perfect of course--no OS ever will be--but it IS much better and more secure, by design, than Windows.

    EDIT: mangled quote!
  15. macrumors member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Oxnard Shores (Ventura), CA
    Saying hacker will attack the larger marketshare to create an impact completely disregards the fact that there are a large quantity of viruses for the numerous different cell phone OS's which at least for a few presents a smaller "whole number" market than OSX.
  16. macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Similarly, "largest impact" would imply that hackers would not bother exploiting a Windows flaw that only affects a few percent of Windows users. But hackers do sometimes exploit those, not just the big holes that affect millions.
  17. macrumors 68000


    Mar 28, 2005
    I couldn't read the article, but I just think the best argument against the security through obscurity theory (at least as the only reason Mac OS X have less viruses etc) is to mention OS 9 - which had, at various points I believe, far more viruses than OS X (of course!) with a similar or lower market-share. Kind of blows the obscurity argument away.

    As others have said, I am very sure that were the security of OS X not as good as it is, numerous viruses would be out in the wild already, if for nothing else than kudos for the people who write them within their own circles.

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