why are macs not vunerable to viruses and spyware

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by ethan101, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. ethan101 macrumors member

    Dec 3, 2006
    is it the software that is built not to allow this or is it just that viruses and spyware is geared toward windows

  2. twoodcc macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong
    one reason is because people just don't write viruses for macs, but usually windows. it's not that it can't be done though
  3. Queso macrumors G4

    Mar 4, 2006
    Weird one to answer this. It's certainly not impossible to write an OSX virus, it's just much harder to do so than on Windows. OSX has all sorts of layered security built into its structure, whereas on Windows you have that great gaping hole known as Internet Explorer allowing pretty much instant full access to the OS for those that know how to exploit it.

    Tie that in with all the other factors, such as Microsoft's perceived evilness, their greater market share with large corporations, the fact that Mac users tend to be more savvy with regards to patching their computers, and Apple's shipping of Macs with all network services disabled, and the effort required is simply too much when there's a much easier target next door.
  4. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    This is an age-old debate....

    One the one hand, the market / target argument above is very valid.

    On the other, people have even held contests to write exploits and yet very few have surfaced. And they are never ones that can replicate and have a valid vector onto computers. Why? For one, because Windows has a couple of major weaknesses (e.g. ActiveX / COM) that account for almost all virus / spyware / adware vectors onto the computer.

    I think it's a combination of the two: the viruses are not being written and there are less loopholes that allow malicious code to be run without user permission / intervention on Macs.
  5. iMacZealot macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    There's a combination of reasons why Mac OS doesn't really have a lot of that junk. It's mostly due to the way OS 10 is built. There are five (I believe, someone correct me if I'm wrong) ports a virus can get into a computer, and all five are secured with Mac OS 10 and all five are open with Windows. Macs also have additional security features. For example, when you download something, Safari notifies you if it potentially contains an applications (which MAY be malware,) and when an application tries to install itself, (like a virus) Mac OS 10 requires permission from you by asking your username and password, or it will simply not install. It is also more difficult to write malware for Apples. It's not impossible, but it's pretty close to. Also, since there are fewer Macintosh users, they haven't been as much as a target as Windows, but if an additional Get a Mac advert is placed in every commercial break and another iPod billboard pops up, the more Macintoshes will be a target due to its market share, which is rapidly increasing.
  6. Catfish_Man macrumors 68030


    Sep 13, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Port numbers go up to 65,536 actually, although most of them aren't used for anything and therefore aren't vulnerable. Which ones are listening for connections depends on what you're running, and has very little to do with viruses. For example, if you have remote login on, port 22 will be listening for ssh connections, if you have the web server on, port 80 will be listening for http connections, Quake uses port 666, etc...

    Most nasties are either spread through social engineering (iloveyou, for example), or through browser holes. There are some that will infect various processes that listen for connections, but they're less common. SQL Slammer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SQL_slammer_(computer_worm)) is a good example of the latter kind; it could infect any computer with an active copy of SQL Server running on it, by taking advantage of the fact that SQL Server didn't check data it received from the network carefully enough.
  7. thewhitehart macrumors 6502a


    Jul 9, 2005
    The town without George Bailey
    The posts above pretty much explain it all. We should have a special forum for this discussion, because the same things are repeated over and over again, with nobody bothering to search for past discussions about it. No new theories have surfaced to explain why Mac OS X has no viruses - the above explanations are overwhelmingly convincing as it is. I'm not one of those "oh go search for it" sticklers, but it's getting a bit rediculous. :rolleyes:
  8. solvs macrumors 603


    Jun 25, 2002
    LaLaLand, CA
    This has been answered a million times, and always ends up the same. Some people say it's lack of marketshare, some say it's that Macs are built safer, and the rest of us say a little of both. Then someone comes in saying they could write one if they felt like it, but don't. Truth is, there were viruses for OS 9, and it had an even smaller market than Apple does now. Plus far less exposure in the media. Same with Linux. Any script kiddie can write a Windows virus, especially in IE especially because it's so unsecure and also used by a lot more people and businesses. Neither of which tend to update as much as they should. If someone could write a virus for OS X that actually causes harm in the wild, they'd be famous. No one has yet. Someone came close last year, but it didn't infect too many people because it didn't spread. And you had to manually d/l something first. Just a lot of proof of concepts out there mostly. But it is possible, so we can't be too smug.

    But we are a lot safer, and though obscurity is a small part of it, security is a larger part. And actually the obscurity might wind up hurting us. As I said, the first guy to actually write a real virus that actually worked for the Mac would be famous among his peers, many of whom hate Apple.
  9. 4np macrumors 6502a


    Feb 23, 2005
    The Netherlands
    They are... there are just no virusses / spyware yet (apart from some proof of concepts)...

    One plus however is that OSX always asks for the administrative password for making crucial changes (configuration and installation wise). This makes it harder to install software undetected.

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