Microsoft apologists and why Apple’s Mac OS X has zero viruses

Apple’s Mac OS X “offers inherently better security for several reasons. The most important is that it was designed with relatively little concern for compatibility with earlier versions [for example Mac OS 9], while Windows is full of compromises so that it works with older and less secure operating systems,” Stephen H. Wildstrom writes for BusinessWeek.

“Microsoft’s concern with compatibility, which largely reflects the demands of corporate customers, has resulted in old flaws being carried forward. With last year’s Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, the software giant finally decided that security trumped compatibility, and Windows’ security was improved significantly. But many problems remain and will persist at least until Vista, the next version of Windows, is introduced late next year,” Wildstrom writes.

“Still, all operating systems have vulnerabilities, including OS X. Like Microsoft, Apple issues a monthly set of security patches to plug the holes. The big difference is that actual exploits of Mac vulnerabilities have been extremely rare, and that suggests a lack of interest by attackers. A few years ago, OS X probably would have come under attack just for the challenge of it. But all the evidence suggests that these days, the ablest writers of viruses, spyware, and worms, are motivated more by profit than glory, and Windows, with 90%-plus of the market, is where the money is.”

Full article here.

The New iPod with Video.  The ultimate music + video experience on the go.  Buy it now at the Apple Store. From $299. Free shipping.
The New iMac G5 – Built-in iSight camera and remote control with Front Row media experience. From $1299. Free shipping.

MacDailyNews Take: According to Apple, there are “close to 16 million Mac OS X users” in the world and there are still zero (0) viruses. Zero. According to CNET, the Windows Vista Beta was released “to about 10,000 testers” at the time the first Windows Vista virus arrived.

Those who surf the Web using a Mac tend to be better educated and make more money than their PC-using counterparts, according to a report from Nielsen/NetRatings.CNET News.

Using Wildstrom’s “logic:” Virus writers are motivated by profit, so they attack those who surf the Web using Windows because they tend to be less educated and make less money than their Mac-using counterparts. If profit is the motivator, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to steal from those with the most money? Or perhaps, it’s too hard and they can’t get into Mac OS X user’s machines at all?

Using common sense, there should be a least one virus in the over 5 years since Mac OS X was released, shouldn’t there? But, there is not one Mac OS X virus. Where is it? The reason why has so much more to do with inherent security than anything else, that to continue to try to equate “security via obscurity” (for an OS that, by the way, isn’t “obscure”) with the inherent security built into Mac OS X, is ridiculous. The New York Times’ David Pogue once tried the Mac OS X “security via obscurity” myth on for size. It didn’t fit. Pogue thought about it and quickly recanted. (Read Pogue’s simple explanation why Mac OS X much more secure than Windows XP here.)

People who propagate the “Mac OS X is secure because it’s obscure” myth are either not thinking the issue through completely or are Microsoft apologists. Apple Mac OS X is vastly better than Windows at protecting its users from malicious attacks. Mac OS X is so much better, in fact, that it’s literally a joke to write lines like, “still, all operating systems have vulnerabilities, including OS X. Like Microsoft, Apple issues a monthly set of security patches to plug the holes.” Those words suggest that Wildstrom thinks Mac OS X would be as prone to viruses, spyware, adware, etc. as Windows, if only it had “90%-plus of the market.” (Windows doesn’t have “90%-plus of the market,” by the way.) Mac OS X would not be as vulnerable to viruses, worms, spyware, etc. as Windows if it had Windows’ installed base. Not even close.

Windows was not designed for open networks like the Internet. Microsoft could never say no to backwards compatibility and now have an OS in the hands of millions of interconnected people that wasn’t designed to be secure when interconnected. Microsoft has been promising better security for years with each successive Windows packaging change. If you think Windows Vista is going to magically fix the problems, we’ve got a nice bridge in Brooklyn for you on sale at eBay now.

Note to all of you “security via obscruity” types: please stop insulting Apple Mac OS X’s (and NeXT’s and decades of Unix’s) brilliant operating system designers while simultaneously trying to cover for Microsoft’s ineptness. The reason that Mac OS X users surf the Web with impunity is because of the secure way Mac OS X is designed, not because it’s “obscure.” What kind product that 16 million people use daily is “obscure?” Your argument is as flawed as Windows. 16 million people use Mac OS X daily and it’s never had one single virus in over 5 years. Let’s get serious. Mac OS X not secure because it’s obscure, it’s just better.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
$500 bounty offered for proof of first Apple Mac OS X virus – September 27, 2005
Symantec: 10,866 new Microsoft Windows virus and worm variants in first half 2005 – September 19, 2005
Cargo magazine describes Apple’s Mac OS X’s immunity to viruses, spyware as ‘relative’ – September 10, 2005
ZDNet Australia publishes latest Mac OS X security FUD article – September 9, 2005
Consumer Reports dubiously finds 20-percent of Mac users ‘detected’ virus in last two years -UPDATED – August 10, 2005
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
Joke of the month: Gartner warns of Mac OS X ‘spyware infestation’ potential – March 30, 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
Apple: ‘Opener’ is not a virus, Trojan horse, or worm – November 02, 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
Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness – December 21, 2003
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


  1. F*** Microsoft. F*** Windows. F*** all these clowns that can get it through their thick skulls that Mac OS X is a superior OS.

    Oh yeah, I’m a former Windows Network Engineer….studying Mac OS X programming now. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  2. “The most important is that it was designed with relatively little concern for compatibility with earlier versions [for example Mac OS 9], while Windows is full of compromises”

    What RUBBISH! Are we meant to call the achievment of virtually 100% compatability and seamless intergration of OS9 apps via the Classic environment “designed with little concern?”

  3. Sometimes i wonder where these people get there stats… 90%? thats pretty high…

    Obviously the reason why macs dont have viruses.. no one will pay for mac, use it, and then want to hurt it… its too perfect!

    ME… i wanna throw a rock through my windows everyday:P

  4. MDN: You have a couple typos: “Mac OS X would not be as vulnerable to Windows if it had Windows’ installed base” — “as vulnerable to” should say “as vulnerable as”.

    Also, “lease stop insulting Apple Mac” should say “please stop….”

    Some commentary on why Apple DOES release patches from time to time would have balanced out MDN’s comments. But otherwise I am with you all the way. OS X is inherently better. There’s a joke about how viruses would work in OS X: “KillJoyX needs your administrator password. Please enter it now.”

  5. Mac OS-X sits on top of Unix, a very well designed system. Unix is not a patchwork of stolen ideas and cobbled together hacks. MicroShaft tried to migrate to something robust with Windows NT but were unsuccessful at getting wide adoption. Even today, Windows XP Professional enjoys a far smaller audience than the (slightly cheaper and more compatible) consumer XP. This has helped fuel the thinking (inside MS) that they must maintain that compatibility issue to keep a large userbase clamouring for paid updates.

    Someday (hopefully sooner rather than later) the house of cards will collapse. Linux and Mac OS are poised as alternatives when the masses are ready to shed their buggy unsecure Windoze software. Of course they will have already tried the latest version of MS security (for an additional fee) and found it “not so secure” and costly. As the price of time wasted installing and managing security software increases Mac’s will look like a cheaper and cheaper alternative.

  6. Still amazes me that people cannot understand that OS X is a much better, logical system.

    No registry, no DLL’s, no crazy directories.

    Just Applications, Library, System & Users. Simple, effective and nowhere for viruses to hide.

    Call me crazy, but Windows looks like a complete and utter mess. I reckon no two versions of Windows are the same.

  7. yes windows dominates etc but what virus writer would not want to be the first to cause major havoc on the Mac side. There would be more publiclty for that one incident than a years worth of PC virus news.

  8. I recall learning Unix at University in the 1980’s. While connected to another large University in a neighbouring city over a slow telephone line (300 baud connection with frequent dropouts was tops in those days), I found I had somehow acquired administator privileges on the other computer. I suggest the virus proof reliability of the Unix OS underpinning MacOSX is in large part follows from the constant testing and use since then. Now, almost all of the vulnerabilities have been detected and addressed. However, Apple cannot afford not to keep a watching brief on what may render the system vulnerable to viruses!

  9. Tommo_UK, the statement that Mac OS X was designed with little concern for compatibility with earlier versions is in many respects correct.

    What we run on our Macs today is NextStep, which was designed with absolutely no concern for compatibility with Mac OS 9. The main difference between NextStep and Mac OS X is the inclusion of two compatibility environments, namely Carbon and the Classic environment.

    Classic is an emulator. This emulator will only work on PowerPC Macs, and you won’t be seeing it on the forthcoming Intel boxes – so a big chunk of backward compatibility will disappear with that transition.

    Carbon is a re-working of the classic Mac APIs designed to be able to work on top of NextStep. The concern when designing the Carbon APIs was not ensuring 100% compatibility, it was to ensure that things would be able to work on a radically different underlying operating system. Moving to Carbon wasn’t a simple re-compile job, since virtually all applications made use of old API calls that were not present in Carbon, and many apps got left behind.

    Mac OS X on PowerPC isn’t a truely compatible OS with Mac OS 9 – it emulates it, when required, and that’s something rather different. This means that there are some things that won’t work, although most classic Mac apps will run. Mac OS X on Intel is very compatible with software written for Mac OS X on PowerPC, and compatible with Carbon applications too, but not at all compatible with pre-Carbon.

  10. If you’re in the UK, tonight’s The Gadget Show on channel 5 (FIVE) at 7:15pm is going to be testing what happens to an unprotected PC when you plug it into the internet. Should be amusing watching for mac users.

Reader Feedback

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