Macs are immune to viruses… right?

Posted by admin on April 27, 2012 under Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

Billions of dollars disappear each year in fighting, repairing, and preventing computer viruses, and Microsoft Windows makes up the vast majority of this cost. So Windows machines are insecure, right?

Well sort of, but not really…

While some would argue that Windows is inferior from a technical point of view, leaving it open to virus threats, there’s not really anything technically more insecure than most other operating systems, or at the very least that’s not the main reason the vast majority of viruses are Windows viruses. The virus problem with Windows machines is due to the popularity of the Windows operating system.

You see, if you’re a virus programmer, you have a goal in mind. You are either trying to capture or steal information, cause general mayhem, gain remote control, or simply see how many computers you can infect. Writing viruses is a numbers game, as a virus creator you always want to infect as many computer as possible, so which are you going to choose? The operating system that is on around 90% of computers, or one that makes up the other 10%? It’s a no-brainer. Windows is insecure mostly because it’s successful.

So if pervasiveness of the operating system determines the likelihood that a virus will be written for it, Apple have a problem. Their Macbooks and iMacs are becoming more popular on the back of their iPad and iPhone sales (more about them in a moment), which means the number of viruses written for the Mac are going to increase. This has become evident in the last few days, as a virus which allows Macs to be remote controlled has been discovered and is estimated to have infected around 500,000 machines.

So it’s scary enough that your Mac is now a target for hackers and virus authors, but that’s ok, you can get a virus scanner easily enough, either purchased from the usual suspects like McAfee or Symantec, or a free one like ClamXav.

But just when you thought you were protected, consider that about 40% of mobile phone users in Australia have Smartphones and that number is growing rapidly – both in Australia and worldwide. Smartphones are just small computers with small operating systems, and will be just as big a target for the creators of those nasty viruses. If smartphone penetration grows at the current rate, it’s only a matter of when, not if.

How to protect yourself

Well there’s no substitute for education and vigilance when it comes to security, but these nasties are designed to trick people and many of them are really good at doing that. Fortunately the security companies already have both iOS and Android virus scanners available, but how effective they are is questionable given that there are no reported viruses for them yet.

The best protection is to be careful when using your phone. Don’t keep things like bank details on there or use sites like your bank site unless you are using two-factor authentication. And the best advice is the same as it has always been; if someone is trying to convince you to forward something on you probably shouldn’t, and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Comments are closed.