The Apple Mac is back: Mac OS X vs. Windows-based computers

“Just a few years ago, the Apple Mac looked dead in the water. With a tiny market share, problems involving compatibility with other computers, and overly expensive kit, the company was kept alive by a small but devoted army of admirers. But by emphasising its beautifully designed computers and phenomenally successful iPod portable music player, it turned the corner and began to win new fans. More importantly, Apple’s prices are now within the reach of all,” Anthony Dhanendran writes for Computeract!ve.

Dhanendran writes, “So what are PC users missing out on, and what are the things that PC users can still gloat about?” Computeract!ve explores the Apple Mac “inside out, looking at how and why it differs from Windows-based computers, and explaining what you can do on a Mac that you can’t on a PC, and vice versa.”

“The received wisdom is that Macs are much safer than PCs when it comes to viruses, spyware and other security threats. It’s certainly true that virus writers target PC users running Internet Explorer because this is the most common combination on the internet. The virus writer’s strike rate will be higher doing this, than if they were to target Mac users,” Dhanendran writes. “Yes, the Mac is safer in general, with fewer discovered security holes, but that doesn’t mean it’s to tally free from attack. While as a Mac user you won’t be susceptible to PC viruses or spyware designed to trap PC users, there are still threats. Like the PC, Macs come with a personal firewall built-in, and automatic updates if bug fixes are needed. Finally, because of the way Mac OS works, the system’s core is more protected from viruses than under Windows. It is fair to say that, for now, Macs are safer than PCs, but that may change as virus writers and hackers start to take an interest.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Other than indulging in a bit of the “security via obscurity” myth (see next paragraph), this is an interesting article.

Mac OS X machines are inherently safer than Windows boxes, regardless of market share or installed base. Although having a smaller user base certainly doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t appear to be the primary reason for the complete lack of Mac OS X viruses. For example, Apple’s Mac OS X has suffered zero (0) virus cases in the over five years (September 13, 2000) since Mac OS X was released to the public. According to Apple, there are “close to 16 million Mac OS X users” in the world and there are still zero (0) viruses. For comparison, according to CNET, the Windows Vista Beta was released “to about 10,000 testers” at the time the first Windows Vista virus arrived. So much for security via obscurity.

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Hackers already targeting viruses for Microsoft’s Windows Vista – August 04, 2005
16-percent of computer users are unaffected by viruses, malware because they use Apple Macs – June 15, 2005
ZDNet: How many Mac OS X users affected by the last 100 viruses? None, zero, not one, not ever – August 18, 2005
Intel CEO Otellini: If you want security now, buy a Macintosh instead of a Wintel PC – May 25, 2005
Apple touts Mac OS X security advantages over Windows – April 13, 2005
97,467 Microsoft Windows viruses vs. zero for Apple Mac’s OS X – April 05, 2005
Apple’s Mac OS X is virus-free – March 18, 2005
Cybersecurity advisor Clarke questions why anybody would buy from Microsoft – February 18, 2005
Security test: Windows XP system easily compromised while Apple’s Mac OS X stands safe and secure – November 30, 2004
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004
Information Security Investigator says switch from Windows to Mac OS X for security – September 24, 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
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
Virus and worm problems not just due to market share; Windows inherently insecure vs. Mac OS X – August 24, 2003

34 Comments

  1. tired of the whole “the only reason that viruses are not on osx is because not that many people use it”

    if i were a hacker, i would want to make a virus for the osx so that i can say i was the first to do it.

    i really think that you cant

  2. MDN:

    You’re mising a critical reason here, and one that, in my view, the Mac community needs to do a better job of getting out there:

    OS X is has its internals protected from modification by users and programs that they run (benign or otherwise) unless they give the admin password.

    This is because OS X by default does not have users running as the administrator (and you should never change this – only run as admin temporarily).

    Windows, unbelievably, DOES have users running as the administrator by default, and, due to poor separation of operating system activity, this cannot be changed.

    Microsoft is alleging that it is going to fix this with Windows Vista, but I’ve stopped believing statements from Microsoft until independently verified by reliable 3rd parties. Plus, Windows Vista isn’t here yet – 2006? 2007? 2008? The fact that a virus came out for Windows Vista after 10,000 copies were seeded, as MDN mentions, is not an encouraging sign.

    When a computer connects to the internet, the computer, necessarily, is exposed to the entire world of the internet, in all countries (for those services (ports) that are open), and for all programs that connect to the internet.

    Running as the administrator means that the entire computer is at risk if a security hole arises. Running as a non-administrator means that only the user’s files are at risk, not the entire computer. And, lets face it, all software has bugs/holes, even software from reputable, innovative companies that try to do good work.

    Lets use a house as an analogy: You have to leave the front gate unlocked so people will be able to come to your door – this is like connecting to the internet. You do not have to leave the front door unlocked, and, if the entire world was walking up to your house, as is the case on the internet, you would be insane to do so. Yet, this is EXACTLY what Windows does. I’m actually surprised Windows doesn’t have MORE security problems than it does.

    This begs the question: is Windows appropriate for internet use?

    At the risk of giving away the answer to the above question, this begs another question: where are the product liability lawyers on this one? This is a grevious product flaw. If a house builder made a house that could not have the front door locked, the lawyers would be all over it….

  3. “the Windows Vista Beta was released “to about 10,000 testers” at the time the first Windows Vista virus arrived. So much for security via obscurity.”

    Precisely. This should be repeated ad nauseum anytime that stupid myth is referred to.

  4. Macs are safer and the obscurity by the numbers is FUD.
    There are no viruses for Mac because the virus writers and hackers can’t get in, period. You need an admin password to write to any OSX system and without it you can’t do anything.

  5. While it’s quite obvious that Mac OS X is more secure, there’s no proof that securty via obscurity isn’t the cause. MacDailyNews shouldn’t state opinions as fact.

    In fact, MacDailyNews should drop the news part from the name, seeing as though they like to report opinion just as much as fact.

    Come on guys, let’s be a little responsible. We’re not fighting a jihad here. If we want more people to enjoy our platform, let’s do it without being petty. This is a good article, there’s no reason to blast his own opinions

  6. MDN take: 0 viruses-skip….0 viruses-skip…..0 viruses-skip….
    Enough already MDN. The Mac platform is not completely safe. As long as social engineering is around, no-one is safe from anything. Face it the world is an exciting place to be in because at any moment, anything could happen. Let’s keep the Mac community out of the limelight and stop saying that shit over and over….

  7. I find it interesting that soon after OS X for Intel was released to developers a “cracked” version appeared that allowed people to use it on any PC … but still no viruses.

    On the other hand, I think there was actually at least one virus already for the last Vista release BEFORE the general release to their 3rd party developers.

  8. The main reason that the malware script kiddies don’t attack the Mac is that they can’t download a dumbass-proof ready-to-deploy malware source code project from the Internet for the Mac.

    MDN Magic Word: take, as in This is My Take.

  9. PC computer users who are opening to the Mac really are trying to present a positive and open evaluation, but it is sad that they don’t understand the Mac OS X foundation better.

    Like the PC, Mac OS X has a firewall, but the Mac had it first and it is MUCH MUCH easier to configure, especially if your computer has more than one network device.

    Don’t be mad and send hate mail though. The author is trying, but keeps expecting Mac OS X to be a somewhat altered Windows clone. It happens all the time.

  10. I think the MacOS is secure, and IS secure, not because of its small marketshare, but for the simple fact that there hasn’t been any malware to successfully attack it.

    Virus writers are obscure, demented people that live for the recognition (public and private) of what they have done.

    What better recognition could they acheive than to be the first to write a successful Mac (aka impregnable OS) virus?

    MacOSX is virus free because hackers have tried but haven’t succeeded.

  11. Hey John, you think it’s that simple? You don’t need an admin password after you’ve found a memory leak, buffer overflow, etc… Please guys. BSD and Linux have a few viruses. The more flaunting by the community, the sooner it’s going to happen. You see that’s why Apple puts out security updates so much, but only of they get called on a vulnerability in public. There are plenty of holes. They just haven’t been tested yet. Give it a rest, or your challenge will only be met sooner that we’d all like.

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