Can Windows viruses acquired in OS X infect the boot camp partition?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by axu539, Jan 6, 2011.

  1. axu539 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 31, 2010
    The title says it all. I have searched, and can't seem to find a situation exactly the same as mine. I have Paragon NTFS installed, so OS X CAN write to NTFS drives (namely my Boot Camp partition). I do not have any antivirus on Mac, as it is simply a waste of system resources. I DO have MSE installed on my Boot Camp partition (which is running Windows 7 64 bit by the way). Could I inadvertently pick up a virus in OS X and have it somehow infect my Boot Camp partition? Any knowledge would be much appreciated.
  2. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    The answer is rather complicated.

    Windows viruses cannot RUN in the Mac OS X environment, so they cannot do anything at all if picked up there. However, if infected files are then copied to your Windows partition, you reboot into Windows, and try to load/run them... that's when you could get infected.
  3. jace88 macrumors regular


    Jan 3, 2011
    Sydney, Australia
    As alluded to above, a virus is fundamentally a program with a malicious intent of some form. It can only be run in the environment it was designed for whether it's Windows or Mac.

    Therefore, a Windows virus wouldn't be able to execute within the Mac environment (e.g. if you downloaded a Windows .exe virus in your email) and hence it wouldn't be able to infect your boot camp partition.

    However, if you downloaded a Mac virus whilst in Mac OS, there's nothing stopping it from treating the Boot Camp partition as just another drive and infecting files on there especially if it has read/write access.

    The exception to the first point above is if you are running virtualisation of Windows (e.g. Parallels) in which case it can happen whilst running Mac OS X (because your'e also running Windows simultaneously).

    A question to the punters out there- are there any viruses identified yet which are capable of taking advantage of dual boot operating systems? AFAIK there aren't but who knows what can happen in the future (e.g. a Mac virus which identifies you have a Boot Camp partition and dropping a Windows virus executable into your Windows start up!).
  4. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    Actually, there are ~3 known hybrid Windows/Linux viruses that can be especially destructive on dual-boot Windows + Linux configurations. However, I know of 0 Mac + Windows hybrids.
  5. axu539 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 31, 2010
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I was more curious than worried, but you guys have cleared it up for me. :)
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    This won't work for most users for a few reasons. First, there ARE no Mac viruses in the wild that can run on current Mac OS X.

    Mac Virus/Malware Info

    Second, in order for Mac OS X to write to the Boot Camp partition, not only would read/write have to be enabled, you would also have to install NTFS-3G to write to the NTFS-formatted Windows partition, since native Mac OS X can't write to NTFS.

    NTFS (Windows NT File System)
    • Read/Write NTFS from native Windows.
    • Read only NTFS from native Mac OS X
    • To Read/Write/Format NTFS from Mac OS X: Install NTFS-3G for Mac OS X (free)
    • Some have reported problems using Tuxera (approx 33USD).
    • Native NTFS support can be enabled in Snow Leopard, but is not advisable, due to instability.
    • Maximum file size: 16 TB
    • Maximum volume size: 256TB

    Anyone who enables r/w and installs NTFS-3G should be knowledgeable enough to know the risks, but even then, they'd have to wait until someone writes a Mac virus and releases it in the wild, where the user could hunt for it and find it. The bottom line is, this vulnerability is possible, but it would take a lot of deliberate effort to make it work.
  7. axu539 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 31, 2010
    As I said in the original post, I have Paragon NTFS installed (same as NTFS-3G), AND I do have read/write privileges on my Boot Camp partition. But, like you and everyone else are saying, since the virus needs to be executed in OS X to infect that other partition, infections are unlikely. Thanks for your response!

    Just curious though, my Boot Camp partition was r/w enabled by default. Is that required for Boot Camp to work, or is there some way to disable it (just in case)?

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