“Users of Apple Computer Inc.’s Macintosh computers have long enjoyed the technology equivalent of a safe neighborhood, where the viruses and security nuisances that bedevil far more common Windows PCs are practically nonexistent. Now, as the Mac is seeing some of its best sales in years, bad guys appear to be casing the joint,” Nick Wingfield reports for The Wall Street Journal. “The two worms were innocuous compared with the most invasive and destructive programs that plague Windows computers; security experts referred to them as ‘proof of concept’ programs. The worms didn’t appear to inflict any meaningful harm on Macs — they required users to go through several steps on their computers before being infected. Yet the appearance of the worms tripped alarm bells among some Mac users and security firms because they were part of a very small handful of malicious Mac programs, known in the tech world as “malware.” Security experts believe it is only a matter of time before more-virulent forms of malware for Macs appear.”

“Security researchers say they have recorded between 100,000 and 200,000 viruses — a term often used interchangeably with worms to describe malicious programs that spread by copying themselves — for Windows and previous Microsoft operating systems. For Mac OS X, the number can be counted on one hand,” Wingfield reports. “Apple of Cupertino, Calif., is becoming a higher-profile target, though. While Apple’s market share remains small, its Mac business was booming last year: The company sold 4.7 million Macs in calendar 2005, a 35% gain from the 3.5 million it sold in 2004 and far better than the 16% growth for the PC industry as a whole during the same period. Apple’s visibility as a company has never been higher, with the smashing success of its iPod music player, an iconic device that has introduced many Windows users to Apple technologies for the first time.”

“In response to the vulnerability identified last week, the company said in a statement, ‘Apple takes security very seriously. We’re working on a fix so that this doesn’t become something that could affect customers. Apple always advises Mac users to only accept files from vendors and Web sites that they know and trust.’ Many users of Apple products and some security experts also believe Macs are more resistant to malware attacks than Windows computers because of smart decisions Apple made in the design of OS X. Out of the box, Apple has set up Macs to make it hard for hackers to do damaging things like surreptitiously install harmful software programs than it has been in the past on Windows XP, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system,” Wingfield reports.

Full article here.

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