The Mac Landscape: Full of Empty Threats?

The verdict is in: OS X is as insecure as anything out there, but somehow nobody — including attackers — cares. – Larry Seltzer, in an eWeek opinion piece titled “The Mac Landscape: Full of Empty Threats?

“That’s quite a verdict,” John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball.

Seltzer: When it first came out in July, Symantec’s report ‘The Mac OS X Threat Landscape: An Overview’ revealed a collection of vulnerabilities and potential attacks that rivaled any major operating system (at least in their shipping versions). The updated version, released earlier this week, reinforces these conclusions, and in fact things are getting worse.

“Symantec’s report is, in fact, interesting, and for the most part fair. It does list an assortment of known vulnerabilities and areas of potential attack against Mac OS X, but nowhere in the report does it indicate that the “collection” as a whole rivals that of any other operating system. Nor does the document indicate that much, if anything, regarding Mac OS X security has gotten worse since the initial version of the report in July 2006,” Gruber writes.

Gruber writes, “What the Symantec report proves is that Mac OS X is not somehow magically invulnerable or immune to security exploits, which is a position no one but utter fools has ever espoused. Seltzer’s logic seems to be that an operating system is either invulnerable or vulnerable, and since Mac OS X is vulnerable, that means it’s in the same position as Windows.”

“That leaves Seltzer with the problem of explaining why Mac OS X doesn’t suffer from a comparable number of actual attacks as does Windows or other systems,” Gruber writes.

Full article, “Jackass of the Week: Larry Seltzer,” here.


  1. Even if you throw away all logic and agree with this sort of nonsense, who cares? I’ve still being using my mac for 3 years without problems, without having to run anti-virus, without any of the associated problems that windows has. Even if OSX crumbled tomorrow and ended up in the same situation as windows, I’d still have those 3 years and others have had longer. That said, it’s nonsense.

  2. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”LOL” style=”border:0;” /> Another FUD story by someone who doesn’t have a clue. I’ll put up my Mac against any Windows XP system and I know my Mac will be as clean as a whistle versus the XP machine will be full of spyware within a week.

    Get a clue Larry, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Find a real virus on a Mac OSX system? Couldn’t find one huh, I thought so.

  3. Saying that OS X might suffer from viruses in the future and that you are therefore no better off using it now than you are using windows is surely a bit like saying you’re going to die some day so you may as well commit suicide?

  4. And what I still fail to understand is, how is it that people who know virtually nothing about Apple or Macs are constantly projecting their negative feelings about anything that isn’t Windows onto Mac users and Apple in general.

    And let me give Seltzer a tiny clue: Sir, you have your head squarely up your arse, and trying to use anything reported or “studied” by Symantec only proves it. Since you are hell-bent on promoting and using Windows, my adive to you is to keep your eye on the VISTA ball because if you thought you had security problems before, it was just child’s play. I’m pretty sure you’ll find plenty of Symantec reports to back up that prediction.

  5. Symantec report is just theory, with no proof, no real wild virus, no one has ever been compromised in the wild. And all of these proof of concepts require someone to be logged into an OSX machine phyically which means it really can’t count as a real virus. The same kind of story by some kid who said he could break into an OSX machine. Found out the truth later that he already had an account on the machine and he was phyically on the machine to get into it. So again, OSX is the safest operating system on the planet and there is no real proof of anyone being able to break it yet. Oh and there is no magic, it’s just real security code built in to the operating system unlike Windows which has NONE.

  6. Ron,

    It will do no good to email him. He’ll just report that he got a lot of “biased” emails from “Mac fanatics,” and make snide remarks about how “predictable” we are.

    Welcome to the Bush era — there is no reality; just “bias.”


    I would really like to hear any comments from hackers. Any hacker worth his salt. Please, any real devilishly brilliant hacker who has some real world knowledge of OSX vulnerability issues and creating havok for OSX users in the real world,

    If your out there and you don’t suffer from emotional issues would you please chime in? Can you separate the FUD from the REALITY?

  8. My eyes started rolling so hard and fast, they almost fell out!

    Why on Earth would anyone with 1/2 a brain believe ANYTHING from Symantec?

    From what I’ve seen, most Windows users FEAR their computers… on many levels. People are so beaten down by the Windows Experience™, that they simply cannot comprehend a computing experience without having to do the eggshell dance.

    Windows rules the user.
    The user rules the Macintosh.

  9. What Seltzer says is true, but it’s only part of the story. OSX certainly has its vulnerabilities – though not having ActiveX is a huge plus – but those vulnerabilities are of less import to users. Why? Partly because even the least-safe Mac user has to be convinced to “aid and abet” any attempt at harming the system. A more secure user will only endanger a user account should they be tricked into aiding and abetting.

    Yes, there are a number of vulnerabilities. But you need to get inside a multi-layer “firewall”, one layer being the user, in order to even attempt an attack. Hardly a fool-proof system, but reasonably effective. Any vulnerability known is more dangerous to a Windows user than to an OSX user, if only because the OSX user has the vulnerabilities protected from the outside world.

    DLMeyer – the Voice of G.L.Horton’s Stage Page

  10. Not all operating systems are insecure. Some are, in fact, more secure than others. Apple’s OS X is far more secure than any operating system from Microsoft. Therefore, buy Apple if you want an operating system which is more secure than Microsoft.

  11. I feel much safer sticking to OS X, which is only theoretically insecure rather than Windows, which truly insecure in so many ways.

    I don’t care how many proof of concept scare stories or videos of rigged attacks attract publicity, all that matters to me is that ~real~ malware doesn’t affect my Mac.

    We’ve had more than five years of so-called experts telling us that a virus attack is inevitable any day soon, but it still hasn’t happened, nor has anybody got close.

    You can find examples of malware aimed at computers with more market share than OS X and also on computers that are less numerous than OS X. Why would people ignore Macs because there aren’t enough to be worthwhile, yet still write one for computers that are around in smaller numbers ?

    As always, John Gruber makes a great deal of sense. It’s a shame that Larry Seltzer hasn’t acquired that particular skill.

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