Mossberg: Is there a virus threat for Apple Macs?

This week Walt Mossberg’s mailbox contained a question about security software for Macs. Mossberg writes a weekly tech Q&A column for The Wall Street Journal.

Reader’s question: There’s been a lot of press lately about increased virus activity on the Macintosh platform. Should Mac owners now be running the same kinds of security software that Windows owners use?

Mossberg’s answer: There is no sudden security crisis on the Apple Macintosh platform. In fact, for average Mac users, there isn’t a security threat of any significance, at least not yet. It is laughable to compare the real, massive and burdensome security problems on Windows with the largely theoretical security problem on the Mac… As of today, there have been exactly two documented, successful pieces of malicious software — viruses, trojan horses, worms — that affected users of the Mac OS X operating system, since it was released in 2001. And these two failed to spread much, affecting probably a few dozen people, and doing no harm. I expect there to be a small number of additional Mac viruses this year.

By contrast, there are over 100,000 reported viruses for Windows, some of which have affected millions of people and have done significant economic damage. As for spyware, I know of no documented cases on Mac OS X, while there are certainly thousands on Windows. These Windows viruses and spyware can’t run on the Mac operating system, even on Macs powered by the same Intel processors used by Windows PCs… Security firms are saying that the discovery of these vulnerabilities in the Mac has increased sharply lately. They say that based on past patterns, this should yield a sharp increase in the number of Mac viruses in coming years. But even a ‘sharp’ increase could well mean under 50 viruses by 2008. So my advice to Mac users is that at the moment, I see no reason to buy and run security software, which is in itself costly and can degrade your computing experience… Just turn on Apple’s built-in firewall and relax. There is one exception: If you are running Windows on one of the new Intel Macs, you are just like a Windows user, and you must run Windows security programs when using Windows.

There is more in Mossberg’s full answer here.
[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Whit” for the heads up.]

[Newsweek magazine calls Mr. Mossberg “the most powerful arbiter of consumer tastes in the computer world today.” Time magazine calls him “the most influential computer journalist.” And Rolling Stone calls him “the most powerful columnist in technology.” The Washington Post declared Mr. Mossberg “one of the most powerful men in the high-tech world” and “a one-man media empire whose prose can launch a new product.” And the New York Times calls him a “protean critic of the new economy’s tools.” Mr. Mossberg was awarded the 1999 Loeb award for Commentary, the only technology writer to be so honored.]

MacDailyNews Take: It’s nice to see the truth beginning to come out via reputable sources.

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Related articles:
‘Mac security’ garbage reports continue to proliferate – May 10, 2006
ZDNet: Reduce OS X security threats – ignore security software – May 05, 2006
McAfee announces virus protection for Intel-based Apple Macs – May 05, 2006
BusinessWeek: New Apple Mac ads stir up Mac security overreaction – May 04, 2006
Unix expert: Mac OS X much more secure than Windows; recent Mac OS X security stories are media hype – May 03, 2006
Macs and viruses: the true story – May 02, 2006
Anti-Mac FUD machine shifts into overdrive – May 01, 2006
FUD Alert: Viruses don’t catch up to the Mac – May 01, 2006
BusinessWeek: Apple should hire security czar to combat uninformed media FUD – March 09, 2006
Spate of recent Mac security stories signal that Microsoft, others getting nervous – March 06, 2006
Mafiasoft: Microsoft to charge $50 per year for security service to protect Windows – February 07, 2006
Why pay Symantec for flawed ‘security’ app designed to protect Apple Macs from nonexistent threats? – December 27, 2005
‘Highly critical’ flaw in discovered in Symantec AntiVirus for Mac OS X – December 21, 2005
Why Symantec’s ‘scare tactics’ don’t worry Mac users – September 28, 2005
Motley Fool writer: ‘I’d be surprised if Symantec ever sells a single product to a Mac user again’ – March 24, 2005
Symantec cries wolf with misplaced Mac OS X ‘security’ warning – March 23, 2005
Symantec’s Mac OS X claims dismissed as nonsense, FUD – March 22, 2005

55 Comments

  1. How much do you think Apple pays him to publish these stories?

    Enough is enough. We get it. I like macs, Mossberg likes macs. Mossberg is really starting to sounds like the Thurott of the Mac world.

    With every one of these stories I start to wonder if he’s another journalist on Apple’s payroll.

  2. How Much?: Chill out, man. Thurott wrote articles singing praises of software that didn’t deserve it. Mossberg slapped Apple’s AV Connection solution silly in a review that was published just yesterday! He’s no Apple shill. He’ll tell it like it is. And I respect the man for shooting down all the Mac Malware FUD that’s been rampant in the press lately.

  3. How Much? – You are an idiot. He is reporting the exact truth, why would he be paid to do this? People who are paid to write stories are invariably lying … which is why they are being backhanded you simpleton.

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