Are viruses specific to the OS?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by MegaSignal, Jan 15, 2007.

  1. MegaSignal macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    #1
    Just got back from lecture today in Networking Class where the instructor said to the class that "since Apple went to the Intel chips, they're just as susceptible to all viruses" and that there was a virus that caused the user "to have to completely reload there operating system - they were hosed" last fall and vaguely cited an article in PC Magazine.

    I was surprised to hear this from the source that I did.

    I asked the instructor later on in the day if viruses were specific to a particular OS, and was told "sometimes - and sometimes not".

    Can anyone provide me with the correct info with regard to this and whether or not there was indeed an article concerning this in PC Magazine?
     
  2. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

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    Aug 30, 2003
    #3
    No, viruses are not necessarily tied to an operating system, or even to a hardware architecture. See Microsoft Word macro viruses for the best known examples.
     
  3. MegaSignal thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 20, 2003
    #4
    I knew that OS X is based on Unix, but do not know anything about Safari, or what it means.

    I apologise for not knowing; any explaination will be helpful.

    I read here at MacRumors of a few Proof-of-concepts that never got out into the "wild", but didn't think much of it. I've programmed a bit here and there (C+, Java, etc.), but am basically an end-user; again, I'm all ears and would like to know once and for all; thanks!
     
  4. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #5
    A vulnerability has to exist. If there is nothing to exploit, viruses don't work.

    It's not about operating systems but any software that provides a host for a virus, as well as a target.

    Adobe Acrobat Reader was recently patched because a .PDF file could be crafted to exploit a problem. Also, QuickTime files, JPEG photo files, Windows MetaFiles (WMF), and Windows bitmap (BMP) files have all been used to target software vulnerabilities.

    It's not just computers anymore. It has to do with printers, too.
     
  5. MegaSignal thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 20, 2003
    #6
    Thanks - I actually read the whole thing; most informative.

    THUS, in conclusion, the statement made above by the instructor linking Mac computers using Intel CPUs to a new vulnerability is incorrect, right?
     
  6. v-ault macrumors regular

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    Dec 20, 2006
    #7
    yeah, that doesn't make any sense. Maybe he means if you put windows on your intel mac?
     
  7. MegaSignal thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Perhaps that's what he meant - if I wanted to run Windows, even on a Mac Pro, I most certainly would run appropriate anti-virus software!
     
  8. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

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    #9
    This is true that you're PC side can get infected, but the Mac OS partition will still remain un-infected (even if the PC side is infected). The Mac partition can still be harmed (data loss) but booting and running the Mac side will not be affected.
     
  9. steelfist macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 10, 2005
    #10
    your instructor shoulden't be teaching in class if he dosen't know what he's talking about...

    it dosen't matter which cpu it is. it's the programming language. you can only get infected if you run windows or some very few cases, a mac. THEN it can mess up not only your partition side, but the whole computer as well. so be careful running bootcamp.

    are you most likely to get infected by a virus if you run an intel cpu on a pc or if you have an AMD cpu on your pc? just because one's using intel dosen't mean that one's more likely to get a virus.

    one small point to him. there are some shared programming language in OSX and windows, there's a possibility of building a hybrid virus then. however i haven't heard of one. can somebody help me on this?
     
  10. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #11
    It's not the programming language, it's the execution environment. MS Office viruses can be successful on both platforms because they've shared the same Visual BASIC for Applications execution environment. Java is a more common execution environment (as well as a programming language and more) and has some built-in safeguards against such things but could be used with a carefully crafted virus that had an operating system-specific component.
     
  11. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #12
    Yeah, this is generally true (programming language is probably a bad choice of words, as Bousozoku said... perhaps API would be a better way to put it). There are some processor-to-processor differences in terms of how the processor responds to a buffer overrun. Some people have claimed in the past that Intel did not have the best technique in this area. That must have some credence as Intel has more recently implemented a CPU-level check for apparent overrun exploits.

    But it's certainly not particularly true that OS X is vulnerable to a virus that uses Windows APIs (as do the majority of viruses) because it runs on an Intel processor.

    That is a strange thing for a CS or CE instructor to say....
     
  12. UserofMacOSX macrumors member

    UserofMacOSX

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    Luray, VA
    #13
    If Windows on a Mac got a virus, would it just affect the Windows program or the computer as a whole?
     
  13. psychofreak Retired

    psychofreak

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    #14
    Windows only
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #15
    That depends on access to (a) the underlying device the Mac partition resides on and (b) access to the Mac filesystem from Windows. It's perfectly reasonable to see a scenerio where you could either read/write the HFS+ partition from within Windows if you have Administrator or Kernel access or where the Mac side is being shared out via SMB. Now, nothing in the wild does this, but that doesn't make it impossible.

    That's why Parallels is better than Bootcamp. The Windows OS only has access to a pseudo-device, not the actual hard drive.
     
  15. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #16
    Yeah, as compuwar pointed out, mostly true but not necessarily or completely true. Besides viruses or trojans that could wipe the OS X partition from inside Windows, it's also possible for a virus that lives in the boot record of the main disk drive to cause some kind of chaos regardless of what OS is ultimately booted. Thankfully there don't seem to be as many of these anymore. In the Amiga days the combination of aggressive anti-piracy measures and boot sector viruses in the wild was deadly... it would make things just stop working with no easy recourse. :(
     

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