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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