Baltimore Sun: Macs users clearly have it much easier than Windows users when it comes to security

“As the latest Microsoft Windows infection spread across the Internet last week, knocking out thousands of PCs in homes and businesses, Macintosh users did what they usually do during a computer virus outbreak — they continued working,” writes David Zeiler for The Baltimore Sun.

Zeiler writes, “That’s because the ‘Blaster’ worm, also known as LovSan and MSBlast, cannot harm a Mac. The worm exploits a vulnerability present only in certain versions of Windows. So a computer running a non-Windows operating system, such as Linux or the Mac OS, is immune… more than two years after its introduction, not a single Mac OS X-specific virus has yet appeared.”

“According to Security Focus, a computer security information Web site owned by Symantec Corp., the Cupertino, Calif.-based maker of the Norton brand of anti-virus products, the number of viruses written for the classic Mac OS is about 50. By comparison, security experts estimate the number of Windows-specific viruses at about 70,000, though the exact count depends upon how you classify all the variations of a single virus or worm,” Zeiler reports.

“Mac users clearly have it much easier than their Windows counterparts when it comes to security. The profound lack of Mac viruses and weak nature of the few existing threats means that even neglectful Mac users who ignore all computing safety advice probably will never experience a security problem,” writes Zeiler.

Zeiler warns, “Nevertheless, this is not an occasion for gloating, as the attack caused widespread inconvenience — ask anyone who visited any of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration offices last Tuesday — and surely cost the nation’s businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity.”

Full article here.

9 Comments

  1. I don’t know where you would get the basic data, but someone ought to add up the following and run the numbers as cost to the US economy.
    1) Cost of lost productive time nationwide due to viral attacks and the like on Wintel systems compared to baseline (UNIX).
    2) Cost of lost sales due to downtime related to security compromise on Wintel systems compared to baseline (UNIX).
    3) Cost of labor used to download, install and deal with problems associated with all of the patches on the Wintel platform compared to baseline (UNIX).
    4) Cost of anti-virus and security programs on Wintel beyond what is baseline (UNIX) in commercial computing.
    5) Cost of permanent additional IT staff needed for Wintel systems beyond baseline (UNIX) systems.
    I KNOW that the numbers would astonish even us and would throttle even the most FUD-filled CFO or Comptroller. I think a lot of IT “Pros” who have been trying to push UNIX and it’s variants (AIX/LINUX/Mac OS X) out the door (or keeping them from getting in) would be fearing for their jobs, or at least fearing answering the question “WHY?” from the bean-counters and CEOs.
    P.S. Why UNIX as baseline? It is a highly scalable, powerful OS that has been around for a long time and has a long track record with which to compare to Wintel. In addition, UNIX is the base of almost all other operating systems facing Micro$oftopoly in the commercial market. Solaris (SUN)/Octane (SG)/LINUX/Mac OS X etc are all based in UNIX.

  2. And the Department of Homeland “Security” uses–what?

    There is a serious common sense problem in this country, no, in the world. Not that that is new! It just continues to amaze me that it exists!

    I have already sent this to several people. Will it do any good? Doubtful.

  3. There’s another reason why macs are immune… there simply aren’t as many of them around! You need to remember who virus writers are and what the cheapest way of fulfilling their desires is.

    If macs were as cheap and as prevalent the common intel PC then the mac community would have the same problem. I’d say so far mac users have been lucky and must not become complacent about viruses.

  4. Not true–although I once believed the same myself. Macs would not have this level of problem even Macs had a very large market share. To restate my post from another such article:

    If/when Macs gain a HUGE market, I suspect we STILL would not have these kinds of problems. Attacks are possible and may one day happen. But probably very rarely and with few widespread consequences.

    Why do I say that? Because UNIX in general is already VERY popular for a wide range of uses, always has been, and yet UNIXes face far less of this kind of problem. Widespread use of UNIXes has not made them suffer the same fate as Microsoft products. Presumably, the reasons are both social and technological. But either way, if you look at the current situation with other UNIXes as a glimpse into Mac OS X’s virus future… that future looks pretty good!

    You can check out security bulletins for OS X and other UNIX flavors (and Windows) here and see what I mean:

    http://www.ciac.org/ciac/bulletinsByType/bul_vendor_list.html (US DOE)

    There has never been a Mac OS X virus or worm. A few occasionally for other UNIXes, but not causing the kind of problems we’ve seen with Windows. This Mac advantage isn’t going away.

  5. jj; this is what trolls around the world keep saying: the problem is in visibility.

    Sorry: it does not take much to write a worm/virus for Windows. It requires no special knowledge or great computing skills. You even find instructions on the web and they are pretty simple. You do not even need to know much about Windows itself.

    To break havoc on Unix (hence OS X) you need a far wider knowledge of the OS and many more system API in order to do what a Windows macro does in few line of code.
    It takes that kind of expertise that maybe have you grew past the age of getting satisfaction from writing virii.

    So, sorry for you again, it is not visibility that makes so easy to write worms/virii for Windows. Everybody can Smash and Grab a Windows, to
    break into the caveau of a bank you need professionals.

  6. Also look at the history of Unix. Before Windows presence in large scale (~1992) it was practically the only thing available together with Apple computers. They had all the visibility imaginable.

    Virii? yes a few, systems patched and pro-actively patched (not waiting for a virus to break havoc THEN release a patch). A couple of Apple virii appeared (which were actully floppy disks infectors). Nothing much.

    Then, late 80s, beginning of the 90s, practically at same time WIndows received as large a base as Apple, Sinclair, Commodore, etc, LOTS and MANY macros and virii targeting Windows appeared? Visibility then? Not so: it was damned easy! It still is.

  7. Oh and by the way: in case you do, stop using IE NOW on your PC. You can get a virus by just opening a web page. Micros**t issued a CRITICAL warning yesterday.

    Don’t you love it? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  8. I believe that most viruses are not targeting the PC platform per se, rather they are attacks on the “Micro$oft” monopoly on the platform, the smugness that Windows is the “best” OS and the general Windows users complete lack of knowledge about how their computer works.

    The misconception that Microsoft presents is that users do not have to maintain their systems is akin to the automobile industry selling you a car and not telling you that you have to change the oil regularly.

    I believe that all computer OS manufacturers (Apple included) should make it abundantly clear in their “Quick Start Guides” that regular system updates are not only important, but critical to the effective use of any computer.

  9. Gotta love the ignorant Wintel fools that persist is believing that the reason there are no Mac viri out there is due to market share.

    As was said, the Mac OS is superior to Windows when it comes to security. Frankly, it is superior to Windows practically every aspect of an operating system, but there are just too many fricking SHEEP on this planet with no brain smart enough to grasp this simple fact.

    They probably burn themselves on their stove tops daily as well.

    Some people will NEVER learn!

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