Apple Macs and viruses: Fact vs. FUD

“2006 seems to be the year of Mac FUD… Fear, Uncertainty, and a new “D”- Disinformation… That’s the world in which Macs seek to increase market share,” Bambi Hambi writes for Mac360. “Why? News headlines proclaim viruses on Mac OS X, new vulnerabilities, and potential exploits. Is there truth to the news? Are viruses a problem on the Mac?”

Mac360 reader and former Windows user Michael Kenney looks at the issues in a two part series investigating some common “New Myths” about the Mac:
• Myth #1: Macs are just as vulnerable to Viruses, Worms, and Trojans as Windows computers.
• Myth #2: Macs using Intel Processors are more vulnerable now because they use the same processors found in generic PCs.
• Myth #3: Mac vulnerabilities have increased 228% since 2003, but Windows vulnerabilities have increased a much smaller amount. That means the Mac is MORE vulnerable than Windows!
• Myth #4: Now that Macs are getting more popular, aren’t virus writers going to start attacking the Mac more?
• Myth #5: Mac users now have to purchase and run Anti-virus software, install firewalls and scan their computers for spyware the same as Windows users.

Part one (myths 1-3) here.
Part two (myths 4-5) here.

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Related articles:
Symantec Antivirus software flaw allows hackers to seize control of PCs without user interaction – May 25, 2006
‘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
Hackers already targeting viruses for Microsoft’s Windows Vista – August 04, 2005


  1. I’d say that myth #4 is true, or at least virus writers will try to attack macintosh’s more (I haven’t read the article, so I don’t know what the writer says). The rest of the myths are both ridiculous, and commonly asserted.


  2. The security through obscurity myth is false if for no other reason that PC users (the kind that would even write a virus) would love nothing better than to smackdown the smug Mac community and their no virus proclamations. It’s an ego thisng, not a market thing. They don’t make money from doing this destruction, its for bragging rights.

    So, if thats true, which we all know it is, then why no viruses for the Macs?

  3. just preaching to the choir. Until this gets published in the national media it is a waste. Its a good article, but it needs to be published translated and reported on all over the globe.

  4. Here’s the sterling counterexample to the marketshare myth — that Windows has so many viruses because it’s popular.

    The open source web server Apache has about 64% market share. Microsoft’s IIS has about 25%. (Source: If the marketshare myth were true, we’d expect to see *at least* three times as many viruses for Apache as for IIS, and we’d expect it to be a much more popular target.

    But the IIS platform suffered from the huge Code Red and Nimda worms, and Apache has had no vulnerability nearly as high-profile.

    Security talks; bullshit walks.

  5. In order for Macs to be considered viable for enterprise by CTOs and IT staffs, we need to make sure that OS X is just as vulnerable to attack as the Windows platform. IT budgets and staffing requirements are dependent on this going forward. We will be implementing a new viral marketing program to achieve our goals.

  6. Look, Unix/Linux has vunerabilities. There was a huge one 10+ years back involving lpd. To use lp go to you terminal window, find a text file and type: “lp <filename.txt>”. There was an exploit where by carefully programming the contents of a file, a user could become root user of a system. That is a big deal. This is a as bad or worse than any exploit I have heard of for WIndows yet. Do I still trust and prefer a Unix/Linux based system, ABSOLUTELY!

    But the difference between M$ and Unix/Linux systems is that ppl actually fix Unix/Linux problems. Unix/Linux is modular so by shutting down the lp daemon the system became safe, and all other activity on the system can safely continue. In Windows there is no way to protect yourself from most threats w/o turning off the machine and waiting until the patch comes out. Most ppl can’t do that so, they keep working with the infected machine and just pass the bad news around to other machines.

    Don’t believe me? Okay look up the supposed Apache security problem in Mac OS X. What was the problem? How could it be solved and still securely use your system? See what I mean.

  7. what comes first?

    1. the first mac os X virus ever


    2. a new vista virus/malware/spyware/etc for the current beta version

    will be fun to watch… ‘coz it will proof if obscurity has anything to do with it!

  8. It is inaccurate in a way to call them myths. A myth is merely a story with certain distinguishing characteristics. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant, just as for a fictional novel.

    Better to call them Falsehoods, which is what they really are. Or how about a vulgar, but accurate, acronym? FART — Factious Attempts to Raze Truth.

  9. Myth #2 _may_ have some truth behind it.

    The x86 chip architecture is more vulnerable to processor level overflows than the PPC architecture. Now, I have not reasearched this _at all_ in the new Core line of chips but if they too are vulnerable to the same types of overflows then the move may alter the Mac’s vulnerability.

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