FUD Alert: Viruses don’t catch up to the Mac

“Benjamin Daines was browsing the Web when he clicked on a series of links that promised pictures of an unreleased update to his computer’s operating system. Instead, a window opened on the screen and strange commands ran as if the machine was under the control of someone – or something – else. Daines was the victim of a computer virus. Such headaches are hardly unusual on PCs running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. Daines, however, was using a Mac – an Apple Computer Inc. machine often touted as being immune to such risks,” Dan Goodin reports for The Associated Press. “He and at least one other person who clicked on the links were infected by what security experts call the first-ever virus for Mac OS X, the operating system that has shipped with every Mac sold since 2001 and has survived virtually unscathed from the onslaught of malware unleashed on the Internet in recent years.”

MacDailyNews Take: Not a virus; it’s a flaw in Safari (please see related articles below). We’d like to meet the so-called “security experts” who call this the “first-ever virus for Mac OS X,” so we could suggest they shove some, uh… job training into their busy schedules.

Goodin continues, “Apple officials point to the company’s virtually unvarnished security track record and disputed claims that Mac OS X is more susceptible to attack now than in the past. Apple plans to patch the holes reported by Ferris in the next automatic update of Mac OS X, and there have been no reports of them being exploited, spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said. She disagreed that the vulnerabilities make it possible for a criminal to run code on a targeted machine.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There are a lot more old, recycled, and questionable ideas in the full article, such as the idea that Intel processors make the Mac more susceptible to viruses; it’s the operating system that opens a PC to viruses, not the processor (see: eWeek: Intel transition a ‘security non-issue’ for Apple Mac). Goodin’s article is an excellent compendium of FUD. Whether the author knew what he was writing about and was a willing coconspirator or whether some entity or entities sought out an ignorant “technology” writer to unknowingly disseminate their FUD is really the only question.

Fact is, Apple’s Mac platform is infinitely safer than Windows. The reason we are seeing articles like this and will see many more in the future has already been explained by our own SteveJack as recently as March 2006: Spate of recent Mac security stories signal that Microsoft, others getting nervous. And that was written even before Apple threatened to seriously disrupt the PC landscape with the Boot Camp concept (ability to run Windows apps at native speeds on a Mac). Expect the FUD to get even thicker as Apple continues taking market share in ever-increasing amounts from the OS-limited Windows box assemblers. Oh look, here’s one already, just published fresh for today: More sites rotten to Apples; Operating system no longer ‘bulletproof,’ according to report.

Mac users: turn on your firewall, don’t run your Mac as “root,” and use common sense (nobody’s giving you a million dollars via random email), and you can continue to surf the Web with relative impunity while Microsoft execs tell Windows sufferers that recovery from Windows malware becoming impossible. Supposedly, it’s better to wipe your hard drive, reinstall Windows, and rebuild your computer from scratch every so often. Can you believe that idiocy?

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Network World: Apple’s Mac OS X is significantly more secure than Windows – May 01, 2006
Minor security flaws found in Mac OS X – April 23, 2006
Microsoft: recovery from Windows malware becoming impossible; better to to wipe and rebuild – April 04, 2006
BusinessWeek: Apple should hire security czar to combat uninformed media FUD – March 09, 2006
Apple Mac remains ‘unhacked’ as University of Wisconsin’s Mac OS X Security Challenge ends – March 08, 2006
Apple Mac OS X clearly offers superior security over Microsoft Windows – March 02, 2006
Apple Mac OS X has a lot more vulnerabilities than Windows XP? – February 28, 2006
Enderle: Security vendors see Apple as next big opportunity – February 28, 2006
As Apple Mac grows in popularity, will security issues increase? – February 27, 2006
The Idiot’s Guide to Mac Viruses For Dummies 101 – February 24, 2006
Wired News: ‘Mac attack a load of crap’ – February 22, 2006
Report: Apple developing fix for automatic execution of shell scripts – February 21, 2006
Ars Technica: Fears over new Mac OS X ‘Leap-A’ trojan pointless – February 20, 2006
Atlanta Journal-Constitution asks: Is ‘Mac virus’ all just propaganda from Mac haters? – February 20, 2006
Mafiasoft: Microsoft to charge $50 per year for security service to protect Windows – February 07, 2006
eWeek: Intel transition a ‘security non-issue’ for Apple Mac – January 30, 2006
ZDNet Australia publishes latest Mac OS X security FUD article – January 26, 2006
IDC: Apple Mac 2005 U.S. market share 4% on 32% growth year over year – January 20, 2006
Analysts: Apple Mac’s 5% market share glass ceiling set to shatter in 2006 – January 09, 2006
ZDNet Australia publishes latest Mac OS X security FUD article – September 09, 2005
Joke of the month: Gartner warns of Mac OS X ‘spyware infestation’ potential – March 30, 2005
Symantec warns about Mac OS X security threat – March 21, 2005


  1. As it turns out I know Dan Goodin. Dan lives about 3 miles from me. He is a lifetime Mac user and writes ‘how to’ books.

    I don’t know anything about this ‘virus’ but the next time I see Dan I’ll ask.

  2. my mac crashes every 10 seconds, its filled with bugs and viruses, safari crashes without a warning, so does ichat and iweb. its full of viruses.

    also i noticed safari makes text bolder than it really is.
    for example, a regular verdana text looks like verdana bold on safari while it looks normal on firefox or internet explorer.

    this is a huge issue especially if you design a web site.

  3. Don’t forget… “The number of discovered Mac vulnerabilities has soared in recent years, with 81 found last year, up from 46 in 2004 and 27 in 2003”

    Of course they don’t put this into context by listing the number of windows vulnerabilities.

  4. Google is the stupidiest search engine in the world, i cant ever find anything decent on google, its simply stupid.

    they are full of promises but nothing really works right, their calendar doesnt even work on safari browser their froogle thing is a crap, i get tons of spam in my gmail account, and im gonna stop using it.

    i get like 5000 spam messages to my gmail account every day.

    stupid google.

  5. OK, I run my Mac as “Root” How do I change over to non root? How do I add programs if I am non root. PLease explain in a long winded description so I can convert to non root and understand what to do. What I can and can’t do as non root. Thanks much!

  6. Several
    Plz get a life, beacuse even a Dell runing Windows XP would not crash that many times, let alone a Mac. Dont post shit if you dont no what you are talking about.

  7. I managed to download leapA when it showed up. Terminal opened up much to my surprise. I closed it out immediately. No obvious problems in the month+ since.??? I still feel like a dumb ass however.

  8. This recent splashing of “Mac OS X” virus on major news sites is just a FUD campaign aimed at reducing the effectiveness of the anticipated launch of Apple’s new ad campaign. Monkeyboy Ballmer has his hands all over this. That’s all it is.

    BTW, Mike, you’re not serious, are you? I smell a WinTroll.

  9. Mike –

    Root itself is turned off and disabled by default in Mac OS X. You need to go to Netinfo Manager to actively turn on Root and set its password. And even then, with the root user enabled, you still need to log in as root.

    The first user account in the list of users (the one who initially set up the computer) is a power user. Even he doesn’t have root capabilities.

    You want very good root security? Use Netinfo Manager to turn on root, use a password generator to make a tough as hell password to crack, set it as roots password, and then disable root again.

  10. If you download whatever you find on the net (simbl etc) o fcourse
    your Mac can crash,like your car does if you fill it with shit and water in to the tank.

    Common sense ! ! ! Please

  11. Mike,
    Can’t tell if you are serious or not.

    It’s very easy (and, possibly, foolish) to use an Admin account for User tasks, difficult to run as “root”. Apple made it easy enough to create an Admin account and never mentions how to get to “root”.

    It’s easy to switch from using an Admin account (possibly dangerous to the whole system) to using a User account (possibly dangerous only to that account) for your user activities. Open System Preferences and create a new account without the Admin privs, then use that all the time.

    Need to update your system? No problem. From your user account, tell the system to install it! The system will come back and say you lack permission to do that (a feature) and give you the choice of (Authenticate) or (OK) – my representation of ‘buttons’. Click (Authenticate) and it will ask you for an Admin account name and the password for that account. Get it right and you enter ‘sudo’ land briefly – the action requested works as if from your Admin account. No reason to ever log in through your Admin account.

    Engage in “risky behavior”? Set up another account with Parental Controls activated! Limit the programs that account can run – NOT Terminal, for example – so that even if you find something evil:
    a) there isn’t much it can do
    b) it can only do it in this toss-away account
    Not a Perfect Solution, perhaps, but quite effective for the truly modest amount of effort involved.

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