Apple touts virus-free Macs

Apple Store“For years, Apple avoided advertising the fact that Mac OS X hasn’t come under a single virus attack ‘in the wild,'” David Pogue blogs for The New York Times.

Pogue writes, “But now Apple has changed its tune. Its new TV ads mention the Mac’s viruslessness, and a new marketing e-mail puts it very bluntly indeed: ‘PCs got 114,000 viruses last year. Macs got zero. Get a Mac.'”

“Several readers have written to express their concern that this new marketing tactic is just an invitation to hackers, and that soon the Mac will be just as overrun with viruses and spyware as Windows is,” Pogue writes. “I kind of doubt it, and I’ll tell you why.”

Pogue writes, “Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw, ‘The only reason the Mac has no viruses is that its market share is so small; hackers don’t even bother.’ But since I’m on a myth-busting roll lately, let me bust another one: That’s bunk.”

“If the Mac’s market share is five percent, then shouldn’t it have five percent of the viruses? It ought to have seen 5,700 viruses last year, not zero. Clearly, there’s something else at work here, and I’ll tell you what it is: Mac OS X is simply harder to hack,” Pogue writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s nice to see reality reinforced (by someone other than ourselves) every once in a while. Interestingly, Pogue himself fell for the myth back in 2003, but recanted soon after. Our standard “Security Via Obscurity” myth-busting response – featuring David Pogue himself – follows:

Security via Obscurity” is a myth. 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.

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 CEO Steve Jobs at WWDC 2006, there are “19 million Mac OS X users” in the world 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.

[UPDATE: 8/26, 10:29am EDT: Fixed beginning of take to read “once in a while.” Thanks, “Jerkstore.”]

Related articles:
Microsoft’s Windows is inherently more vulnerable to severe malware than Apple’s Mac OS X – August 23, 2006
Chicago Tribune falls for the ‘Security Via Obscurity’ myth – August 14, 2006
Symantec researcher: At this time, there are no file-infecting viruses that can infect Mac OS X – July 13, 2006
Gartner analyst tries to propagate discounted Mac OS X ‘security via obscurity’ myth via BBC – July 06, 2006
Apple: ‘Get a Mac. Say ‘Buh-Bye’ to viruses’ – June 01, 2006
Apple Macs are inherently safer and more secure than Microsoft Windows – November 22, 2005
BusinessWeek columnist propagates discounted ‘Apple Mac security via obscurity myth’ – September 06, 2005
16-percent of computer users are unaffected by viruses, malware because they use Apple Macs – June 15, 2005
USA Today calls iMac G5 ‘exquisite’ but implies Mac OS X more secure than Windows due to obscurity – September 30, 2004
Another columnist trots out Mac OS X ‘Security through Obscurity’ myth – April 03, 2004
Gates: Windows ‘by far the most secure’ system; tries to use ‘Mac OS X secure through obscurity’ myth – January 27, 2004
Q&A Columnist uses ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Mac on virus issue – October 04, 2003
Columnist tries the ‘security through obscurity’ myth to defend Windows vs. Macs on virus front – October 01, 2003
New York Times: Mac OS X ‘much more secure than Windows XP’ – September 18, 2003
Shattering the Mac OS X ‘security through obscurity’ myth – August 28, 2003
Is Mac OS X really inherently more secure than Windows? – August 26, 2003
Virus and worm problems not just due to market share; Windows inherently insecure vs. Mac OS X – August 24, 2003

44 Comments

  1. Apple is merely recognizing the fact that Macs are already a huge target for malware writers, so increasing the attention isn’t going to make much of a difference.

    With people at Black Hat resorting to faking an exploit, Apple finally realized that the market share myth is just that: a myth.

  2. Apple should just hire 100 of it’s most adamant fans to do their ads. They always seem to come around to our side eventually.

    Although, our ads would probably piss off most non-Mac users anyway.

  3. “But wait, doesn’t the New York Times report nothing but lies? This must be part of some sort of liberal agenda. Don’t believe it.”

    Some lies, some truth. As with most mass media outlets.

    The technology section is usually pretty accurate, though.

    Do some research before spewing next time.

  4. Their plan is to get all of the windows hax0rz to stab themselves in the face (which they profess wanting to do) because they’re so annoyed by Macs’ lack of viruses, so that all who remain are rational people who can make educated decisions in computer purchasing, not blind fanboys.

  5. Pogue is a nice guy, too. My son and I bought his latest book, coupla’ years ago at the Boston Mac LoveFest. He autographed it for my son (12 yr. old, then), and the promptly left it on the Subway. (Thats after almost leaving it at Pizzerio Uno, just before that).

    I emailed him, and his wife emailed back- and we got a new signed copy.

    “To Jake ……., future CEO of Apple”.

  6. Although I agree that Macs are inherently more difficult to “hack”, I still think Apple needs to be more vigilant than ever, and if they haven’t already got one, they should have a dedicated team that does nothing but look for and fix security problems.

    Security issues raised by the community and sent to Apple via ADC bug tracking or whatever should be a priority for the Company. We all know the first time one of these viruses finally makes its way into the OS, it’s going to be splattered all over the media the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

    I think our biggest potential problem is with “user-approved” malware, which of course is platform-independant.

  7. I think it’s about time that Apple and others promote this simple fact more often (i.e. zero existing virus)

    I’m continually amazed when I mention this fact to otherwise seemingly intelligent PC users (is that an oxymoron? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” /> including IT professionals, engineers & software programmers I work with.
    They typically can’t believe it, won’t believe it. Not a tough concept, really – zero.

    However, I do see more of my non-tech industry friends & families these days buying their first Mac – and loving it. they wonder why they put up with their old PC for so long. Apple needs to continue to get the message to these people.

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