Symantec warns about Mac OS X security threat

“Security vendor Symantec is warning that Apple’s OS X operating system is increasingly becoming a target for hackers and malware authors,” Munir Kotadia reports for ZDNet Australia. “In its seventh bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec said over the past year, security researchers had discovered at least 37 serious vulnerabilities in the Mac OS X system. According to Symantec, as Apple increases its market share–with new low cost products such as the Mac mini–its userbase is likely to come under increasing attack.”

“‘Contrary to popular belief, the Macintosh operating system has not always been a safe haven from malicious code,’ Symantec said. ‘Out of the public eye for some time, it is now clear that the Mac OS is increasingly becoming a target for the malicious activity that is more commonly associated with Microsoft and various Unix-based operating systems,’ the report said,” Kotadia reports. “Trend Micro senior systems engineer Adam Biviano said all complex operating systems had security flaws and the more popular the platform, the more likely it would be attacked. ‘You don’t see Macintosh viruses in mass outbreaks but you do see them in the labs as proof of concepts. There aren’t any outbreaks because there are simply are not enough [Macs] out there. For a virus to be successful it needs a combination of an exploit and a large target audience,’ said Biviano, who nominated the mobile phone market as an example of malware writers targeting the most popular platform, not Microsoft’s platform. ‘Look at where mobile viruses are going and they are not targeting Microsoft – they are targeting the market leader, which is Symbian,’ he said.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Do you have to be logged in as root or enter your user password to give viruses permission to spread with Symbian OS mobile phones? And, please, there are simply too many security issues with Windows and too few with Mac OS X for any sane, intelligent person to say that Mac OS X is just secure due to its relative obscurity. There are 10 million Max OS X users, but zero viruses affecting users. Don’t worry about the exact numbers, we’ll use round numbers here just for argument’s sake: if 5% of computer users use Mac OS X and 95% use Windows, wouldn’t 5% of the viruses be for Mac OS X and 95% for Windows if popularity was the main reason for virus outbreaks? Instead, 0.00% of the viruses are for Mac OS X and 100% for Windows. Why? Some people still need to face facts: Mac OS X is simply more secure than Windows by design. Use little dabs of logic here and there, once and awhile, it usually helps clear away the FUD. In related news, umbrella maker Totes announced that with the recent increase in home building, there is an increased possibility of indoor rain.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple’s Mac OS X is virus-free – March 18, 2005
68,736 Microsoft Windows viruses vs. zero for Apple Mac’s OS X – March 12, 2005
Microsoft tries to turn its own security flaw into commercial gain – February 25, 2005
Cybersecurity advisor Clarke questions why anybody would buy from Microsoft – February 18, 2005
Microsoft’s Gates espouses homogenous operating system environments for better security – February 07, 2005
Windows’ mounting security problems make some consumers eager to purchase Macs – January 03, 2005
Windows Media songs and videos found to carry Windows malware payloads – December 30, 2004
Anzae/Inzae worm affects all Windows versions after 3.1; Macintosh unaffected – December 28, 2004
Unlike Windows users, Mac OS X users surf the Internet without a care in the world – December 28, 2004
Multiple unpatched Windows holes crop up; Windows systems compromised within minutes in experiment – December 24, 2004
Windows spyware mess is out of control, get a Mac and surf with impunity – December 21, 2004
New Microsoft Internet Explorer exploit spoofs Web sites on fully patched Windows XP systems – December 17, 2004
Microsoft may charge extra for Windows spyware protection software – December 16, 2004
Detroit Free Press: Windows malware problem getting worse, it’s time to get a Mac instead – December 16, 2004
Sick of spyware, adware headaches? Get a Mac and surf the Internet freely – December 13, 2004
Mossberg: Windows PCs plagued with problems, Apple’s Mac is ‘rock solid, elegant and affordable’ – December 09, 2004
Security expert: Don’t use Microsoft Windows, Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer – December 09, 2004
Security test: Windows XP system easily compromised while Apple’s Mac OS X stands safe and secure – November 30, 2004
Sick of spyware, adware infecting your PC? Don’t fret, just get a Mac – November 01, 2004
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004
Spyware plagues Windows users while Mac users surf Net with impunity – November 01, 2004
Ballmer blames Windows users for not upgrading systems as Microsoft’s biggest security problem – October 22, 2004
Windows users line up to pay for spyware removal; Mac users surf Web with impunity – October 18, 2004
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004
Windows users’ security woes spark interest in Apple’s secure Mac OS X – October 06, 2004
Windows desktop monopoly threatened by secure, safe Apple Mac OS X – October 04, 2004
Even Bill Gates can’t avoid Windows malware; Mac users surf the Web freely – October 03, 2004
Cyber-security adviser uses Apple Macintosh to avoid Windows’ security woes – September 27, 2004
Information Security Investigator says switch from Windows to Mac OS X for security – September 24, 2004
Mossberg: Apple iMac G5 ‘powerful, affordable, virus-free with better, more modern OS than Windows XP’ – September 23, 2004
USA Today: people are switching from Windows to Mac because of security issues – September 21, 2004
Windows besieged by hackers; number of Windows viruses soars by more than 400% – September 20, 2004
USA Today columinst angry about Windows viruses, adware, spyware – September 15, 2004
University of Chicago recommends all students patch Windows at least once a day – September 14, 2004
Windows XP worm speaks to users as it deletes their files; Macintosh unaffected – September 13, 2004
Security is top priority in Apple’s Mac OS X – September 12, 2004
Millions of Windows PC’s hijacked by hackers, turned into zombies; Macintosh unaffected – September 08, 2004
Mossberg: Dump your Windows machine and get an Apple Macintosh to free yourself of spyware – August 25, 2004
Tired of patching patches to patch Windows patches? Writer suggests getting a Mac – August 03, 2004
Windows ‘Scob’ virus designed to steal financial data, passwords; Macintosh unaffected – June 26, 2004
Gartner: Worms jack up the total cost of Microsoft Windows – May 07, 2004
Spyware, adware plague Windows users online; Mac OS X users surf freely – April 19, 2004
SmartMoney: Long-suffering Windows users can only dare to dream of Mac’s ease-of-use – February 12, 2004
Mac OS X has no viruses; what’s wrong with Windows? – February 11, 2004
Gates: Windows ‘by far the most secure’ system; tries to use ‘Mac OS X secure through obscurity’ myth – January 27, 2004
Columnist tries the ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Macs on virus front – October 1, 2003
New York Times: Mac OS X ‘much more secure than Windows XP’ – September 18, 2003
Wall Street Journal’s Mossberg on making the switch from Windows to Mac – September 18, 2003
Fortune columnist: ‘get a Mac’ to thwart viruses; right answer for the wrong reasons – September 02, 2003
Shattering the Mac OS X ‘security through obscurity’ myth – August 28, 2003
Is Mac OS X really inherently more secure than Windows? – August 26, 2003
Chicago Sun-Times columnist: Windows ‘many holes in its security’ but ‘none of my Macs have ever been affected – August 26, 2003
Sick of worms and viruses? ‘Move to Mac OS X’ suggests Chicago Tribune columnist – August 25, 2003
Virus and worm problems not just due to market share; Windows inherently insecure vs. Mac OS X – August 24, 2003


  1. A self-serving, dishonest and/or poor analysis on many levels. In their discussion of likely virus targets, they should at least examine the extent to which Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices and and terrible (and well-earned) corporate image increase the desire of hackers to target them. Personally I think that even if Apple had exactly the same marketshare as Microsoft they wouldn’t be anywhere near as big a bullseye on them.

  2. Hmmm…

    Could it be that Symantec, Trend et al can see a bit of a speed-bump coming in their cosy little symbiotic marketplace, caused by a resurgence in interest in the Macintosh and the Mac mini in particular.

    So they resort to the obvious scaremongering (much in vogue in politics, by the way) which is “the threat is coming, so you’d better protect yourself just in case”.

    And how do you protect yourself? Pay them $40.

    Just like Europe protects itself with an over-priced “air superiority” fighter (Typhoon) designed to fight an enemy that doesn’t exist anymore, which is just as well given that it doesn’t fulfil its brief properly anyway and you can’t afford to have one of the buggers shot down or you’ll have to shut down a hospital for year in exchange. And the US defense establishment is no better – can anyone tell me the point of the F-22?

    Both of these scenarios are just complex confidence tricks.

  3. FUD to sell more software.

    Given the level of difficulty to write a virus for the Mac, the hackers/virus writers would take that as a challenge to put their claim to fame.

    So seems to me, marketshare have nothing to do with it.

  4. This is just such a load of self-serving crap …

    Just last night my fiancée told me people were telling her they couldn’t access her MSN Group site because “Spyware Doctor 3.1 wouldn’t let them” … I downloaded it to my work PC and installed it (it wouldn’t run in Virtual PC 7 on my home Mac).

    However the part that handles “live” blocking of sites is in their persistent “OnGuard” section which you have to pay for … not wanting to pay just to test it once I found a [k] on an Astalavista-type [k] site … downloaded it and ran the “start” script and immediately things went haywire (not to mention it didn’t [k] Spyware Doctor). In a self-referential act I ran Spyware Doctor which now said there were over 1000 infections … the [k] had installed toolbars, HTML hijackers, you name it. Found another [k] and removed all of those … or so I thought.

    To make a long story short, I ran 3 or 4 programs including a Registry fixer and spent a couple of hours removing all of this crap (including 5 reboots) before everything was finally eradicated … and NONE of this would ever happen on a Mac … the “Registry” concept is so damn retarded … TSR’s that sit there and can’t be killed with Task Manager … blah blah blah and so on and so on … the reason there’s all these viruses and trojans and malware/spyware for the PC is because WINDOZE BLOWS, not because of market share – Mac OS X is, fundamentally, a UNIX under the hood so it’s subject to the same issues as Linux and other Unices/derivatives – yes there are vulnerabilities but I see them every day at work and the Linux ones are so obscure and unexploitable compared to the Windoze ones it’s not even comparable.

    The bottom line: Symantec is screaming “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” – would you trust the company saying that when they’re the ones selling the Fallout Shelters?!?

  5. Magic word: why

    The other reason “why” is Symantec sees a very large competitor (aka Microsoft) coming into their business…and we all know what happens when Microsoft adds your functionality to the next Windows release (regardless of how long it takes). So they gotta start now getting people scared. Booooo!

  6. Blatant. Just blatant. But the good news of course is that this shows Symantec are concerned that they’ll lose a good chunk of revenue as the switch to OSX take place.

    Go Apple.. and let them bring on the hackers (Symantec do your best)!

  7. Good points MCCFR–note, however, that Rumsfeld is trying to kill the F-22, so you may need another example for the US. There are probably others…
    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  8. Symantec said MacOS is becoming more and more a target and this is how MDN interpreted it:

    >And, please, there are simply too many security issues with Windows and too few with Mac OS X for any sane, intelligent person to say that Mac OS X is just secure due to its relative obscurity.

    MDN and other MacOS fanatics are a bit much! Lighten up folks, it’s not a personal attack on you, your family, or your dog!

    Heck, it’s not even an attack on MacOS.

  9. Symantec said MacOS is becoming more and more a target and this is how MDN interpreted it:

    >And, please, there are simply too many security issues with Windows and too few with Mac OS X for any sane, intelligent person to say that Mac OS X is just secure due to its relative obscurity.

    MDN and other MacOS fanatics are a bit much! Lighten up folks, it’s not a personal attack on you, your family, or your dog!

    Heck, it’s not even an attack on MacOS.

  10. MCCFR: The F22 is about giving others cause to believe that they need not bother trying for superiority: it’ll cost them far too much. I personally am happy that we have superior kit that can protect us in a barking mad world thanks. And what’s more I believe that we Europeans should think twice before we sell our kit to the Chinese… because its more than just money at stake.

    Sorry for going off topic..!

Reader Feedback

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