Mac Malware Myths

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It’s a common misconception that Mac’s don’t get viruses. Further to’s article on Mac Malware, I discuss the issue with Mark James, ESET UK’s resident security specialist.

In the eternal battle of Mac vs. Windows the argument I am most sick of hearing is that “Mac’s don’t get viruses”. The first problem with this statement is that with an AV program like ESET Smart Security you barely need to worry about malware on windows anyway – nothing like a bit of shameless promotion in the morning.

Secondly, it simply isn’t true, and in fact there is evidence to show that Mac malware could be on the rise. I asked ESET’s Mark James some simple questions about malware on Mac OS.

Do Macs get Malware?

“Absolutely from the very early days of “Elk Cloner” (the first virus discovered in the wild) that was written specifically for the Mac OS through to today we see malware written specifically to target Apple operating systems, many instances of malware have been found ranging from trojans, backdoors, spyware and exploits, all of these can cause as much damage on a Mac as they can on a windows machine.”

Where does the commonly held belief that they don’t come from?

“Simply because they are not as many, windows users range between 80 to 90 percent of the total market share so it stands to reason if you’re going to write malware that relies on ROI (return on investment) then why would you write for a platform that has at most 20% (estimates range around 10%) it simply is not worth the effort.”

Can PC Malware affect Macs?

“No, file viruses written for the windows platform cannot harm a Mac operating system.”

Can you see Mac Malware increasing in the future?

“As the Mac operating system gets more prominent and more and more people buy Macs then yes it stands to reason we will see more and more infections on the Mac, it won’t ever catch up with windows malware though.”

Any particularly significant weaknesses in Mac OS?

“Most often the biggest weakness is the assumption that you are safe on a Mac OS.”

And perhaps a few essential Mac focused security tips?

“Using a good antivirus program, a good firewall and making sure you use common sense when on the web will go a long way to protecting yourself, make sure all the applications you use on your Mac are updated regularly, ensure your OS is up to date and where possible encrypt your personal data, also make sure your browsers are only using essential plugins where ever possible.”