Gartner analyst tries to propagate discounted Mac OS X ‘security via obscurity’ myth via BBC

Security threats to PCs with Microsoft Windows have increased so much that computer users should consider using a Mac, says Sophos Security.

“‘It seems likely that Macs will continue to be the safer place for computer users for some time to come,’ said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. ‘[That is] something that home users may wish to consider if they’re deliberating about the next computer they should purchase,’ he added,” BBC News reports.

BBC News reports, “But Brian Gammage, an analyst at Gartner research does not believe the advice is well founded. The number of people using Macs is far less than those using Window’s based PCs, he said. ‘If you have smaller walls, you attract less graffiti,’ he said. ‘There is nothing architecturally safer about Macs. If everyone moved to them then the situation would change overnight.'”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “M.X.N.T.4.1” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: Who the hell is Brian Gammage? His initials are B. G., but “B. S.” might be more appropriate. A Gartner “analyst” for the last six years and former Account Director for Hewlett-Packard does not a security expert make. For some reason, Gartner seems to see no conflict having him participate in a US$295 research report titled, “Vendor Rating: Hewlett-Packard” (26 July 2005) and, while we do find some old articles with Gammage’s name attached about Windows PC security (or lack thereof) in Gartner’s online archives, we cannot find a single article that shows Gammage has any expertise with or any knowledge at all pertaining to Mac OS X security.

“Security via Obscurity” is a myth. Frankly, we thought we’d heard the last of it by now. But, here we go again: Mac OS X has zero (0) viruses. For over five years and counting. No Mac OS X users affected outside of a lab with old, non-updated Mac OS versions that they intentionally infected. Some in the press, maybe even some Gartner analysts, love to think “Mac OS X has viruses, too,” but they’re dreaming. It’s simply not true.

The BBC should pull that quote due to stupidity alone. Why is Brian Gammage being asked a Mac OS X security question by the BBC? What proof, truth, or research are Gammage’s statements based upon?

The idea that Windows’ morass of security woes exists because more people use Windows and that Macs have no security problems because less people use Macs, is simply not true. Mac OS X is not more secure than Windows because less people use OS X, making it less of a target. By design, Mac OS X is simply more secure than Windows. Period. For reference and reasons why Mac OS X is more secure than Windows, read The New York Times’ David Pogue’s mea culpa on the subject of the “Mac Security Via Obscurity” myth here.

Macs account for roughly 10% of the world’s personal computer users — (some say as much as 16%) — so the first half of the myth doesn’t even stand up to scrutiny. Macs aren’t “obscure” at all. Therefore, the Apple Mac platform’s ironclad security simply cannot logically be attributed to obscurity.

There are zero-percent (0%) of viruses for the Mac OS X platform that should, logically, have some 10-16% of the world’s viruses if platforms’ install bases dictate the numbers of viruses. The fact that Mac OS X has zero (0) viruses totally discounts “security via obscurity.” There should be at least some Mac OS X viruses. There are none. The reason for this fact is not attributable solely to “obscurity,” it’s attributable to superior security design.

Still not convinced? Try this one on for size: according to Apple last July, there were “close to 16 million Mac OS X users” in the world (even more today one year later) and there are still zero (0) viruses. According to CNET, the Windows Vista Beta was released “to about 10,000 testers” at the time the first Windows Vista virus arrived. So much for the security via obscurity myth.

Contact the BBC via their online feedback form here.

From Apple eNews, June 1, 2006:

It’s really sad that so many people have to be wary about opening email, visiting websites, chatting with presumed “buddies,” or downloading music, photos, movies or other files over the Internet.

No one should have to zealously guard their computers against spyware, viruses, trojan horses, or various other types of malware. Or run a bewildering assortment of (quickly obsolete) virus-protection apps. And no one should have to run a computer to a nearby computer store, so it can be “cleaned” on a routine basis.

Do you know why people put up with that? If their cars didn’t drive where they wanted to go; their TVs didn’t play what they wanted to watch; or their phones didn’t connect to the party they called, how long would they keep using them?

Apple provides more info online about Mac’s lack of viruses here.

By the end of 2005, there were 114,000 known viruses for PCs. In March 2006 alone, there were 850 new threats detected against Windows. Zero for Mac. While no computer connected to the Internet will ever be 100% immune from attack, Mac OS X has helped the Mac keep its clean bill of health with a superior UNIX foundation and security features that go above and beyond the norm for PCs. When you get a Mac, only your enthusiasm is contagious. – Apple’s “114,000 viruses? Not on a Mac.” webpage.

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Sophos Security: Dump Windows, Get a Mac – July 05, 2006
Apple: ‘Get a Mac. Say ‘Buh-Bye’ to viruses’ – June 01, 2006
Apple Macs and viruses: Fact vs. FUD – May 26, 2006
Mossberg: Is there a virus threat for Apple Macs? – May 11, 2006
BusinessWeek columnist propagates discounted ‘Apple Mac security via obscurity myth’ – September 06, 2005
Hackers already targeting viruses for Microsoft’s Windows Vista – August 04, 2005
16-percent of computer users are unaffected by viruses, malware because they use Apple Macs – June 15, 2005
ZDNet: How many Mac OS X users affected by the last 100 viruses? None, zero, not one, not ever – August 18, 2005
Intel CEO Otellini: If you want security now, buy a Macintosh instead of a Wintel PC – May 25, 2005
Apple touts Mac OS X security advantages over Windows – April 13, 2005
97,467 Microsoft Windows viruses vs. zero for Apple Mac’s OS X – April 05, 2005
Apple’s Mac OS X is virus-free – March 18, 2005
Cybersecurity advisor Clarke questions why anybody would buy from Microsoft – February 18, 2005
Security test: Windows XP system easily compromised while Apple’s Mac OS X stands safe and secure – November 30, 2004
Microsoft: The safest way to run Windows is on your Mac – October 08, 2004
Information Security Investigator says switch from Windows to Mac OS X for security – September 24, 2004
Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness – December 20, 2003
Columnist tries the ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Macs on virus front – October 1, 2003
New York Times: Mac OS X ‘much more secure than Windows XP’ – September 18, 2003
Fortune columnist: ‘get a Mac’ to thwart viruses; right answer for the wrong reasons – September 02, 2003
Shattering the Mac OS X ‘security through obscurity’ myth – August 28, 2003
Virus and worm problems not just due to market share; Windows inherently insecure vs. Mac OS X – August 24, 2003

41 Comments

  1. The BBC have a program called ‘Click’ or ‘Click on line’, that I used to watch, but it became so lame I don’t anymore. There were next to no stories on the Mac and when there was they just didn’t do anything to enlighten the dumb masses. Mild broadbrush rubbish.

    In one show they stated that 4 of the staff were avid Mac users, so one would expect a few more stories than the crap they dished up on the Mac over a few years. Just seems there must have been a windows user or two running the show?

    All this from a media outlet that interviews a taxi driver as an IT expert! The Poms are soooo funny.

  2. By the same argument of obscurity:

    How many servers run Apache on *nix versus IIS on Windows? Windows in the minority and has huge number of server based viruses, and Apache/*nix has … none?

    The argument about obscurity is fatally flawed, the truth is that some OSes are inherently more secure than others; Windows is simply insecure.

  3. 16 Million exploitable Mac’s would make a nice botnet

    1: If I could get in, the complex security of Mac OS X would keep most other hackers out.

    2: The users by far don’t run any security checks, don’t know much to detect if I’m rooted in their box or not.

    3: Mac users usually have more cash, do online banking more often, are looser with their security.

    Oh yes Mac’s are incredibly attractive targets. If I could get in.

    Where’s my mug shot? hehehehe

  4. Click-Online is not worth looking at … BBC be aware.
    Defending -Windhose- is defending a radial-piston-engine against the jet-turbine: just different ages.
    Mac OS X is years ahead, many so called security IT’s do not believe it and do not want to know IT.
    A Windhose engineer has to worry about his IT job.

  5. Big Pete –

    You’re totally right about the BBC’s Click online programme. Completely amateurish. In a recent Mac OS vs PC OS item, they insisted on pronouncing it OS “EX” rather than OS Ten! And the two so called ‘user experts’ were a right pair of arse tubes with the Mac guy accepting without argument some of the misconceptions that the PC user spouted about OS X.

  6. Think: Back in the Mac System 7 and Mac OS 8 days, the Mac market share was much larger than it is today. I’m not sure of the numbers, but it was well over 10% with System 7.

    Michael Spindler and Gil “Mag-Light” Amelio nearly killed Apple by trying to commodify Macs and compete with nearly every product imaginable: licensing the Mac, scanners, digital cameras, inkjet and laser printers, etc.. The Mac product line suffered tremendously under their “guidance”.

    Anyway, are we surprised when these corporate proles spew FUD and idiocies about Macs and OS X? They’re probably trying to protect their investments in Dell and Microsoft, so making consciously erroneous statements furthers the “party line”.

    Or maybe their IT departments have threatened to quit if the TRUE WORD gets out about Macs. Hell, if they all switched to Macs, where would their IT departments go? Exactly: to fill out applications at Wal-Mart.

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