Q&A Columnist uses ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Mac on virus issue

It’s time for yet another columnist’s mea culpa on the order of David Pogue and David Zeiler. This time it’s Patrick Marshall. His Q&A article, based on myth, not fact, has just hit the presses, so we’ll have to wait for (or help along) the mea culpa part. Again.

Marhsall’s Q&A goes as follows:
“Q. My question is this: For those of us who use Macintosh computers and don’t have Windows or Word on the computer, are there any precautions we should take when a Windows virus/worm goes around?”

“A. The overwhelming majority of viruses affect only a single operating system. There are viruses that affect Macintosh and Linux, as well as Windows systems. Most of those who write viruses, however, are seeking to cause the most disruption they can. Accordingly, they write viruses for the most popular operating system: Microsoft Windows. The best precaution for all users is to keep an updated version of a high-quality antivirus program running at all times.” Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Wrong, Patrick. Mac OS X is not more secure than Windows because less people use OS X, making it less of a target. Mac OS X is more secure than Windows. Period. Read David Pogue’s mea culpa here for reference. Patrick Marshall can be reached at pmarshall@seattletimes.com.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Is Mac OS X really inherently more secure than Windows? – August 26, 2003
BusinessWeek’s Haddad gets it wrong; thinks low market share spares Macs from viruses – August 28, 2003
Shattering the Mac OS X ‘security through obscurity’ myth – August 28, 2003
Fortune columnist: ‘get a Mac’ to thwart viruses; right answer for the wrong reasons – September 02, 2003
New York Times: Mac OS X ‘much more secure than Windows XP’ – September 18, 2003
Columnist tries the ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Macs on virus front – October 1, 2003


  1. Good God. What exactly about his answer to the question was wrong? The questioner never stated that he uses OS X, only Macs. Obviously you know there were viruses for older versions of the Mac OS.

    The author doesn’t say Mac is more secure because they’re the minority, he says people want to cause mass disruption so they choose the easy target, the hole-riddled Windows. Sayig that people prefer to attack the most popular OS, Windows, doesn’t mean they don’t attack Mac because of small numbers. It means the truth. Windows is dominant and is attacked more often that OS X. What is incorrect about that?

    MDN is getting far too brazen in attempting to call out those who “wrong” Apple and OS X. Please be a little more objective when reading things in the future and don’t overanalyze them for hidden Mac attacks that simply aren’t there.

  2. I don’t think MDN is seeing an attack–that would be intentional, and you’re right, it’s not there. What MDN points out in some cases is the UNintentional–the more subtle perpetuation of myths that are still just as false. In this case, the myth isn’t the writer’s main point–but by omitting some key truths relevant to the question, the bias IS there to be corrected. A bias not based on lies, but on half-truths.

  3. Yeah but Patrick is an MS Boy. I just wrote him not so long ago on an issue about Pop-Up Killers and that instead of telling people to bite the bullet and just deal with Pop-Ups (since Pop-Up Killer Utils don’t always work) that he should recommend Netscape/Mozilla. The Pop-Up Killer’s definitely work for them!

    I haven’t heard from him yet :-

  4. I’m not familiar with the author, so i am unaware of his previous writings. My comments were more directed at the MDN take, which mentions OS X. that is something the questioner never mentioned himself. MDN is arguing against a point never actually stated by anyone.

    Sure, the author could have said “If you are using OS X you have nothing to fear.” But I don’t equate not saying that to be perpetuating the STO myth.

  5. When the first OS X virus comes out, every Wintel flunky will go out of their way to spread the news.

    That is enough reason for hackers to salivate to write the first virus for OS X

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