What’s the point of Anti-Virus for already-virus-free Mac OS X?

“Antivirus company Sophos has released an updated version of its virus-protection software for the Mac, the company announced Wednesday. Sophos said its Anti-Virus for Mac OS X software is easier to use, but the company is still working hard to justify the cost of the product to OS X users, who have not yet had to deal with a widespread virus,” Robert Lemos reports for CNET News.

“For the most part, while potential security issues do exist on the Mac, they have failed to materialize as serious problems. For example, security researchers found a critical security hole in Apple’s operating system in May, which the company patched this month. The hole could have been used to create a Web virus, but no such program has been detected to date,” Lemos reports.

“‘Even when viruses can’t run specifically on the Mac platform, Macs continue to be carriers of viruses, thus increasing the overall spread,’ said a Sophos representative. Regardless, until a major security event creates demand, Sophos and other antivirus software makers may find Apple’s customers not very fertile ground for their products,” Lemos reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Sophos and other antivirus software makers may find Apple’s customers not very fertile ground for their products?” No, ya think? Mac users right now need to make a choice, apply Anti-Virus software to help other platforms (Windows) keep viruses from spreading (which wouldn’t make a dent in it anyway with all of the infected Windows machines out there) or do nothing and suffer no real effects. Anitvirus software for a virus-free platform strikes us in much the same way as a “Macworld Expo” without Apple and a Steve Jobs keynote – what’s the point?

Note #1: if you use Microsoft Office for Mac OS X (viruses and Microsoft go together like no other combo, it seems), you may want to use software such as this to prevent Macro Virus propagation. Note #2: if you are an extreme “better safe than sorry” type, you should probably go for it; it’ll make you feel better.

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
Gates: Windows ‘by far the most secure’ system; tries to use ‘Mac OS X secure through obscurity’ myth – January 27, 2004
Mac OS X has no viruses; what’s wrong with Windows? – February 11, 2004
Spyware, adware plague Windows users online; Mac OS X users surf freely – April 19, 2004
Gartner: Worms jack up the total cost of Microsoft Windows – May 07, 2004
Apple exec: Mac OS X is ‘more secure than other platforms, certainly more secure than Microsoft Windows’ – June 14, 2004
Microsoft developing own antivirus software for leaky Windows – June 16, 2004


  1. “Sure beats one evey eight weeks.” In our office, AV software finds one every eight hours. Not bad for a small business with fewer than a dozen computers on an old server. Truly pathetic.

  2. Someone hopefully remembers this story better than I, but ISTR that Marc Canter, founder and once-CEO of MacroMedia (MacroMind) went to a user group in Canada and popped a floppy disc with a demo animation for Aldus PageMaker to show off. The floppy then inherited a Mac OS 9 virus which he then passed on to the world. Because he took that same floppy disc to the replicators and thousands were mailed across the US.

    The virus caused the system to slow down until it became unuseable.

  3. That’s hilarious! The head of one big software company (MacroMind) inadvertantly infects the key product of another (Aldus.) Imagine if that happened today – MacroMedia infects and Adobe product (Macromind became -Media, Adobe bought Aldus.) It sounds like a case of industrial espionage.

  4. You know, if you are going to have switchers, you are going to have a market for Mac anti-virus software. What Windows refugee in their right mind would not pay good money for virus protection. They would probably do weekly scans and weekly virus definition and OS updates also. It would take weeks, maybe months before they could calm down and enjoy worry free net surfing.

  5. So what is the deal with the Mac virus fud these days? Is it simply a matter of companies wanting to get into the Mac market since everybody and their brother makes virus software for microbelch and they want to make a need for their products. So far Secunia and Sophos haven’t made a legitimate reason to buy their products or services. Even Nortons is trying to tie their Antivirus software into their disk utility software so that you have to buy it even if you don’t need it.

    What’s next, these companies buying macs and training hackers to write viruses for them to generate a market???

  6. Not all Mac’s are used as workstations. If you build a mail server on OS X or use the included Postfix Mail server on OS X 10.3 Server, you should feed incoming and outgoing mail through a virus scanner. If mail is being served to Windows clients, it would be smart business sense to scan for Windows viruses also. Sophos offers another option to Virus Barrier, Virex and NAV.

  7. “Not all Mac’s are used as workstations. If you build a mail server on OS X or use the included Postfix Mail server on OS X 10.3 Server, you should feed incoming and outgoing mail through a virus scanner.”

    Absolutely no controversy here — but then we’re not talking about a huge audience, are we?

    … and Sputnik spun: “The real IT world knows that no real hacker is willing to waste his time writing a virus for such a minor player like Apple. If the market shares were switched, the Mac would be hit just as hard as XP with the same results.”

    Isn’t that a bit like saying that nobody would climb just any hill because it’s not Everest or the Matterhorn. Ever try to keep an 8-year-old out of a tree in the back yard? The majority of virus writers don’t do it for notoriety (can you name one besides Mitnick?), they write them because they can.

  8. From personal experience, I know that there are enough Mac haters out there that if it was at all easy to write a true OSX virus, there would be hundreds of viruses out there.

    They do it to get attention, what possible better way could there be?

  9. Secunia, (que le folle un titi).


    Mac OS X doesn’t stand out as particularly more secure than the competition, according to Secunia. Of the 36 advisories issued in 2003-2004, 61 percent could be exploited across the Internet and 32 percent enabled attackers to take over the system. The proportion of critical bugs was also comparable with other software: 33 percent of the OS X vulnerabilities were “highly” or “extremely” critical by Secunia’s reckoning, compared with 30 percent for XP Professional and 27 percent for SLES 8 and just 12 percent for Advanced Server 3. OS X had the highest proportion of “extremely critical” bugs at 19 percent.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.