Joke of the month: Gartner warns of Mac OS X ‘spyware infestation’ potential

“Research firm Gartner has issued a warning to companies using Mac OS to guard against malicious code attacks and spyware,” Munir Kotadia reports for ZDNet Australia. “Just a week after Symantec caused uproar in the Mac community by warning the OS X operating system was quickly becoming a target for hackers and viruses, Gartner has warned businesses reliant on the Mac to guard against ‘spyware infestations.'”

“Martin Reynolds, vice president of Gartner’s Dataquest organisation, said last week although the overall Mac userbase is relatively small, just one vulnerability exploit could cause trouble,” Kotadia reports. “‘The Macintosh installed base is relatively small, with only about three percent of systems in use today running the Mac OS… The Mac OS is also a harder target… However, it only takes one exploited weakness to cause trouble,’ said Reynolds in a research note.”

MacDailyNews Note: The Macintosh installed base is closer to 10 percent than 3 percent. Gartner’s Reynolds looks to be confusing current quarterly market share with installed base. Many more people use Macs than most people would think, but you need to look at installed base, not quarterly market share to see just how many Macs are really out there. See “More people use Apple Macs than you think; 8-12 percent of homes use Macs.” A quick trip to’s publicly-available stats page for a real world example, backs the installed base figures up by revealing an interesting figure: 14.9 % of their visitors so far this month are using Macs.

Kotadia continues, “‘Although it is almost nonexistent on the Mac platform today, problem spyware could emerge. Spyware that exploits vulnerabilities can establish itself more deeply in the system, becoming both harder to detect and harder to remove. Don’t assume that your Macintosh systems are immune from viruses and other malicious-code attacks,’ said Reynolds.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Spyware is “almost nonexistent” or just plain nonexistent on the Mac OS X platform? We haven’t seen any. This is not to say that there couldn’t be spyware in the future for Mac OS X, but a bit of realism would be welcome. Or how about some relativity, at least? Even if there were 100 cases of Mac OS X spyware, comparing that to the Windows spyware mess would be like comparing a grain of sand to Rob Glaser. This warning to Mac-based businesses to “guard against ‘spyware infestations'” is basically a load of malarky. Gartner’s warning basically is saying that “Mac OS X users have no problems, but don’t think that the threat doesn’t exist. Nobody bought Symantec’s load of —- last week, so we’re going to have to try to scare everyone about the potential for, ummm, let’s see… ‘Mac OS X spyware infestations,’ yeah, yeah, that sounds good… before people go get crazy ideas like dumping their porous, insecure Windows boxes for Macs.” More FUD. And the more FUD you see, the more Apple’s Mac platform is denting the Wintel-centric universe.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Symantec details flaws in its antivirus software – March 30, 2005
If Mac OS X viruses increased 2000 percent, there’d still be zero Mac OS X viruses – March 29, 2005
Motley Fool writer: ‘I’d be surprised if Symantec ever sells a single product to a Mac user again’ – March 24, 2005
Symantec cries wolf with misplaced Mac OS X ‘security’ warning – March 23, 2005
Symantec’s Mac OS X claims dismissed as nonsense, FUD – March 22, 2005
Symantec warns about Mac OS X security threat – March 21, 2005
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. Ah yes, the iron fortress of an obscure operating system. If it were worth the effort to breach security on 2 percent of the worlds computer some one might be enticed to try. Otherwise it’s not even worth the effort. No bang for the buck.

  2. Sure Jon, except for the fact that you are talking about millions of computers. Keep deluding yourself. They’ve tried. They’re not going to brag about failure.


  3. “Security through obscurity,” Wunnut? Mac OS X is BSD Unix, which anyone can examine, while Windows code is closely guarded, yet people find plenty of holes. The “obscurity” technique obviously ain’t working for Microsoft.

  4. Again unless they have your admin password there is no way this software can get installed without you knowing it. So the chance that a Mac running OSX will get spyware is 0!

  5. They should of waited until friday, at least then they would get backlash for it. Of course this is buy your opinions here Gartner.

    Any *nix isn’t immune to spyware or viruses, It’s possible to run them. Of course problems are limited in scope and since they have actualy system wide file system limits that can’t be easily bypassed.

  6. Wunnut,

    Your use of the incorrect “2 percent of the worlds computer” phrase in the face of the evidence presented by MDN (and the fact that even quarterly market share is over 3 percent) is telling.

    Scared of something?

  7. Blah blah… market share really 10% not 3%… blah blah… virus free… blahhh…

    Hey, one does need to be vigilant to make sure security in general remains tight on OS X. To get complacent (as seems to be the case with MDN), invites disaster.

    How much does that Window IP Pro subscription cost? Or does Thurott give you free access in exchange to linking to his articles?

  8. The spyware threat exists because people will be tricked into installing it. It probably won’t be bad as windows but it will probably happen. Why? When presented with box to authenticate when installing an application a user wants, they will comply. If the application also installs spyware, then it will succeed. Spyware is more of a user issue.

  9. Gawd, I hope we are not so stupid as to invite the world’s hackers to try to beat the living daylights out of OS X.

    OS X is another OS, ableit a very well designed and fortified.

    Perfect it isn’t though and to just not take the threat seriously is asking for a whoopin.

  10. OK – I’m a huge Mac fan and wouldn’t use anything else unless you put a gun to my head, but I have to say that while Symantec and Gartner claiming that the Mac is a target seems silly, I would also warn that no OS is imune. It’s just a matter of time before some clever soul figures out how to make a virus work on OS X. I don’t, however, think that it will ever be anywhere near the constant barrage of new attacks that Windows users see.

  11. TOTAL FUD.

    Garner – Yet another losey piece of bull based on no knowledge or research.

    There should be a law against people to write such drivel!

    A word of advice:


  12. MDN wrote, “This is not to say that there couldn’t be spyware in the future for Mac OS X, but a bit of realism would be welcome. Or how about some relativity, at least? Even if there were 100 cases of Mac OS X spyware, comparing that to the Windows spyware mess would be like comparing a grain of sand to Rob Glaser.”

    Damn you, MDN! You made me spray another keyboard with Diet Coke!

  13. I think the guy is saying that you shouldn’t feel invulnerable just because you’re running MacOS, and that you should go ahead and take all the other precautions as well. Not a bad piece of advice.

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