BusinessWeek: New Apple Mac ads stir up Mac security overreaction

“The latest round of Apple ads aimed at convincing consumers to drop their Windows PCs and join the millions of people happily using Macs kicked off this week,” Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek. “Naturally, this campaign — especially the virus-themed spot — served as the starting gun for another round of the endless debates in computer-security circles over how secure the Mac actually is. So far, it has been pretty smooth sailing with a few minor hiccups that caused little or no damage.”

Hesseldahl rightly takes the SANS Institute to task for ludicrously describing Apple’s Mac OS X “reputation for offering a bulletproof alternative to Windows is in tatters” and calls the press reports “misguided.”

“Only a month before that, the press got all wide-eyed over the tale of two ‘viruses’ circulating the Internet that targeted the Mac. They weren’t viruses at all, but rather Trojan horse programs that did nothing more than replicate themselves, and didn’t even do that well. At the time security investigators at Symantec said they had documented only a handful of users actually receiving the Trojan,” Hesseldahl writes. “But this week saw another round of press coverage on Mac security. An Associated Press story detailed how two people clicked on a series of links promising an update to their operating system and found that something fishy happened instead. I may be missing something, but it seems to me it wasn’t the computer that was hacked, but the user who was fooled into taking an action that proved slightly harmful to the computer.”

Then, Hesseldahl writes, “there’s a persistent perception that because Apple is moving to the Intel (INTC) platform and now allows Macs to boot to Microsoft’s Windows, the potential for more security mischief rooted in Windows could raise a ruckus on the Mac… ask yourself this question: How often have you heard blame being cast upon Intel for computer-security problems in the PC world? Practically all computer-security outbreaks in the Windows world attack weaknesses in software, either within the operating system itself, or applications running on it. As yet, Mac OS X remains untroubled in this respect.”

Hesseldahl writes, “Meanwhile, there’s a growing perception that since Mac is getting more popular, the tiny bull’s-eye on the bitten Apple logo will only grow, at least in the eyes of the people who make malware… Bud Tribble, who heads up [Apple’s] software development, took issue with that characterization, saying, ‘There’s no such thing as not being targeted. We’ve always been targeted. It’s false reasoning to say that we’re only being targeted now, and that we’re somehow less secure or that there’s somehow an increase in threats.'”

Excellent full article, email it to your confused Windows friends, here.

MacDailyNews Take: Bravo, Mr. Hesseldahl, for telling it like it really is – and all in one convenient article, too!

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30 Comments

  1. Apple is playing a dangerous game by running that ad. The dumbass Steve Jobs should have kept Apple’s head low in that regards. iBet virus writers worldwide r start’n to eyeball the Macs cuz this shit!!!

  2. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The security through obscurity theory is a myth. The reason i can point at it and say that is because everyone knows that what drives hackers, virus writers and so forth is ego.

    Mac users have a reputation for being arrogant and smug about their platform choice. Are you really going to expect us to believe that some malicious virus writer isn’t going to take Mac users to task for their attitudes and write a virus to smack them down? I don’t think so. If the Mac truly was an open door for virus writers and it was that easy to do, it would be done if for no other reason than to put the legions of smug Mac users in their place.

    It hasn’t happened, and there’s a reason for that.

  3. Lovely. Now if we can only get that distributed everywhere with an eye-catching headline so someone NOT Googling for “Mac security” might take notice.

    It’s BusinessWeek! A good mag in a tiny niche that features intelligent articles for ‘suits’. What part of the market targeted by Mac consists of ‘suits’?

  4. macro,
    We are, in part, protected by our small numbers. Also protecting us is the fact that most “hackers” are actually “script kiddies” who couldn’t hack their way into a system running CP/M without help. ‘Black’ is right in that some of the hackers who write the tools script kiddies use might decide to branch out. What’s to stop them? Well …
    -=> it’s a lot of work to research a 100% different OS
    -=> the first “OS X malware” has already struck, no joy in being 2nd or 3rd
    -=> the target audience is less than 5% of the market
    -=> the OS X hacker community is ~5% of the whole hacker community
    To summarize: lots of effort for little result.
    It’s going to happen. Do not doubt that. The new Mac ads will likely hasten that day. Still, there are eighteen real hackers out there with Windows chops for every real hacker out there with OS X chops and this will insure that the OS X malware – when it comes, and it will – will continue to be modest compared to the plague visited on Windows.

  5. Shocked! Shocked I am!

    A journalist gets it right? All the way? Top to bottom? With facts and research and knowledgeable information gleaned from reliable sources?

    Clearly this man will be out of a job soon. He should hang his head in shame for calling himself a ‘journalist’.

    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  6. Exactly. Intel microprocessors don’t get viruses. Microsoft Windows does. How some people could call themselves “tech journalists” and not know that baffles me. They should be fired.

  7. Hmmm…. lessee here – let’s take a look at the recent brilliant reasoning along these lines, per the amazing Dan Goodin at the AP…

    To wit:

    2 wholly separate and distinct individuals were fooled into clicking multiple times only to see their Mac OS “slightly” damaged by a trojan horse (oooooh, scary – run-fer-the-hills kinda scary!)

    vs.

    More than 100,000 viruses, trojans, worms and their multitudinous variants that have caused millions (if not Big-B Billions) of dollars in lost productivity, lost sales, lower profits and thousands of hours in work stoppages and power outages on machines running Windows OS and related programs (IE, Outlook)…

    Yep – that’s a clear no-brainer. I need to buy a PC!

    NOT. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”mad” style=”border:0;” />

    (Thanks, Arik, for pointing out the horribly, painfully obvious. John Gruber beat you to the punch, but I’m glad you have joined the fray. I can only hope it continues…)

  8. It’s BusinessWeek! A good mag in a tiny niche that features intelligent articles for ‘suits’. What part of the market targeted by Mac consists of ‘suits’?

    How about their office at home, where the IT guy from work won’t make service calls?

    I think Apple’s strategy is to take over all the homes, and then they will find their way into the office. Like they did with the Apple II and VisiCalc.

    Business Week also runs lifestyle articles. If you must, think of this article as one of those. BTW, Business Week has bee very favorable about Apple systems for some time now – almost as much as Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal.

    Hmmm. Hardcore business publications extolling the virtues of Apple computers. Maybe there is something going on here.

  9. Being in a state of denial will ensure an accelerated pace of the demise of Macintosh. If we don’t start now protecting ourselves from the onslaught of virus attacks that are taking positions all around us, we are finished. And, you can thank pied piper Stevie boy for his stupidity of Intel, Windows access through the silly Boot Camp, and the coming one-click access via Leopard. What fools we all are to think it won’t happen. It’s just a matter of time and, with articles and subsequent praise from MDN and commenters here, it will be much sooner than later.

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