Unix expert: Mac OS X much more secure than Windows; recent Mac OS X security stories are media hype

“The recent ruckus about the claimed growing vulnerability of Mac OS X from certain sources has caused an indignant outcry from Mac advocates who claim the stories are mostly media hype. According to an expert in Unix and Linux systems, the outcry is not without justification,” Stan Beer reports for iTWire. “Con Zymaris has been working with Unix systems for nearly three decades and for the past 15 years has been running a consultancy on open source software implementation. Zymaris says that, while it is true that a Mac can get infected with a virus, it is not easy and it is not likely to cause much damage. What’s more, Mac users don’t need to install firewalls and anti-virus software. ‘All platforms are capable of getting viruses, including both Mac OS X and Linux. If you did your work, you could create a virus which would infect some Mac systems but not many systems, not by any stretch all Mac systems and you’re not likely to do much damage,’ says Zymaris.”

“According to Zymaris, at the most basic level, Windows machines get infected by malware through poor design, which is not the case with Macs. ‘Where do these things called viruses come from? In Windows there are a number of different vector approaches,'” Beer reports.

Zymaris outlines a number of Microsoft Windows’ security deficiencies and describes why Windows boxes are so easily infected. Zymaris then covers the superior protection afforded to users of Apple’s Mac OS X and explains that Mac OS X machines simply cannot be as easily infected as Windows.

Beer asks, “So do Mac computers need firewalls and anti-virus protection?”

“Essentially no is the answer. Why do we need firewalls? We need them if and only if you have services which offer connectivity from the outside world into your box. So if you’re running a standard workstation and it does not have a mail server or an FTP server or a file sharing server or a web server or none of these other things that offer the outside world the ability to come and connect to your box, you don’t need a firewall. On the Windows machines by default it goes off and creates all these services that sit there and create these gaping holes. Having said that, firewalls are by default available on OSX and Linux and there is no reason not to run them if you’re running a small office environment,” Zymaris explains.

“As far as anti-virus software is concerned if you’re running Mac OSX or Linux, you don’t need it. How is a virus going to infect you? If you’re a Mac or Linux someone has to send you a program and tell you to login as root and run this program as administrator – that’s how you would get a virus. What are the odds of that happening? In the Windows environment, you don’t have that kind of rights segmentation, so when you click on that fake greeting card that someone sent you by email, the program will happily infect your system because the system didn’t have to ask you to login as administrator and give it permission to make changes to itself. Having said that, there are ways around the system but they take an immense amount of work and, to do real damage, other than deleting files, a virus writer would have to be lucky enough to deliver the payload to someone logged in as administrator,” Zymaris explains.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jeff P.” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: What’s the point of this exercise? Why the truth now? On Monday, Stan Beer wrote one of the most ridiculous pieces, full of misconceptions and incorrect garbage regarding Mac OS X and now, on Wednesday, Mr. Beer miraculously gets the story straight. What is this, journalistic penance (or suicide)? Guess what? We’re not Beer’s priests and we’re not in a forgiving mood. Get it right the first time, before you publish it. How’s that for a revolutionary idea? Penance articles are nice, but the damage is already done and not so easily fixed. To establish some integrity, many more articles like this are required, Mr. Beer, and an public apology to Apple’s Bud Tribble is definitely in order.

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Related articles:
Macs and viruses: the true story – May 02, 2006
Network World: Apple’s Mac OS X is significantly more secure than Windows – May 01, 2006
Anti-Mac FUD machine shifts into overdrive – May 01, 2006
FUD Alert: Viruses don’t catch up to the Mac – May 01, 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
Spate of recent Mac security stories signal that Microsoft, others getting nervous – March 06, 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. It really is boring the way this process goes round, and round, and round. Must have been 5 times in the last year.

    I blame Microsoft.

    In the meantime Apple, (who just gets on with it) bring us more of the future…

  2. This may be a “penance” article,as MDN says. However, Beer only states that according to one expert, it was all hype, and then he goes on to use quotes marks the rest of the way. He’s not saying he’s convinced, Beer is only quoting someone else.

    The article may be giving a more balanced point of view, but I don’t see Beer saying he’s now convinced his first article was FUD.

  3. Reports of attacks on Macs are coming in from everywhere since Steve launched the Intel-Windows-BootCamp-Leopard fiasco.

    The best course of action for us is to admit we are now exposed to virus attacks galore and start figuring out what to do about it.

    Being in denial will destroy us. Is that what Steve really wants?

  4. Because Winblows is the dominant OS and so many people feel they are “stakeholders” in the whole Windblows ecosystem, it’s not surprising how much FUD is being thrown at Mac OS X.

    Most people will believe the FUD if they hear it enough (bell curve). The smarter, more discerning minority will not.

    Once The Steve’s plan is in full bloom, critical mass migration from Windblows to Mac OS X will have begun and the FUD slingers won’t matter.

    Rock on Steve!
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  5. John L. “Johnny” Pierson:

    What? Can’t you read the above article?

    Please clarify your statement: “Reports of attacks on Macs are coming in from everywhere since Steve launched the Intel-Windows-BootCamp-Leopard fiasco”

    From where? When?

    I assume this was sarcasm, if it wasn’t you need to do some reading up.

  6. Exactly where is everywhere JP? I love when people say shit like that with no proof or specific cases

    We are not exposed!!!! It’s not the chip that makes us vunerable..it’s the OS and ours is infinitely more stable and secure than Windows

  7. If you really believe that you can run Intel-Windows on your Mac without it getting badly infected, (especially when it is fully, one click integrated with the launch of Leopard) there is no hope for our security. I’ll gladly bow out of the discussion since so few want to hear reality. Go ahead, stick your heads in Steve’s poo and good luck.

  8. How can it JP when those Viruses only know the Windoze environment..exactly how can it when the drive has been partitioned in a way that the two OS’s can’t see each other…I could go on and on…but obviously Chicken Little the sky is falling

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