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The Myth of the Virus Free Mac

Over the past few days I have seen a few of these new PC/Mac guys commericals.  While I am not a big fan of Apple (that is a discussion for another day) I do think these commercials are pretty funny.  These newest commercials have had some statements that made me stop and listen.  Cut to a woman looking for a PC (Yes windows/linux/macs are all PCs).  She says “I want a computer that doesn’t get viruses” and all of the “PC Guys” walk away.

What??  I know I didn’t see that correctly.  Did Apple say they do not get viruses??  So I went back on my TiVo.  Yup that was exactly what they said.  A couple of commercial breaks later another Mac ad comes on and again they say they are not vulnerable to viruses.  You have got to be kidding me…  What ever happened to truth in advertising.  Obviously people don’t believe this..    So I posted on my facebook status “I just saw an ad claiming Macintoshes don’t get viruses, and I laughed my butt off.  Do people really believe this??”  Within one of my friends replied and the follow facebook conversation ensued..

Friend: You’re the expert, but I’ve had a Mac (a few different obviously) since I was 17. I’ve never once had a virus. Most people I know on PC’s have them constantly. Just sayin’.

Dave: And did you have a virus scanner installed?

Friend: No. But zero performance issues. Pc people amuse me though this is entertaining to me.

Dave: So… Let me get this straight.. No Virus detector, and you know you never had a virus??? Sooooooo…. Yeah….. Need I say more?? 🙂

About this time I was getting a bit annoyed about this.  This guy says he has never had a virus, but has never run a scan.  He knows because he has not had any performance issues.  And HE IS ENTERTAINED BY PC PEOPLE??!?!?  So I added the following

Dave: Besides been rockin the Ubuntu lately.. I still run at least ClamAV on it 🙂

Around this time another friend of mine chimes in (and this is one of my old BBS friends, a big linux guy)

Friend #2: people write linux viruses? since when?

Well I guess beliefs like this will keep me employed…

Fact: There are Macintosh viruses, malware, vulnerabilities, etc.

Meet OSX/Leap-A, this little worm is the first virus discovered for Mac OS X.  It was discovered back in early 2006.  Since then many Trojans, worms, OS specific vulnerabilities and other nasty mal-ware have been discovered.  The folks over Securemac are doing a great job at keeping everyone up to date.  In fact it may be a good idea if Apple would have their advertising group look at their entry from 12/2008

12.02.2008 News
Apple has officially acknowledged that Mac users should use anti-virus solutions in this technical note. As their market share continues to grow, so do the threats to the users.

Related Articles:
Washington Post: Apple: Mac Users Should Get Antivirus Software
The Tech Herald: Apple Encourages Anti-Virus Protection
CNet: Apple suggests Mac users install antivirus software
Apple Insider: Apple encourages Anti-Virus Software

Again, where is the truth in advertising.

For my Linux friends, yes Linux and Unix have Mal-Ware also.  Here is an old list from 2005.

Fact: There are more Windows malware, because there are more Windows machines

If you are going to spend the time to  build a virus, you will probably want to do the most damage.  Windows machines out number Macintoshes 10 to 1.  Simple math, more machines, more dangers.  However we are seeing a growth in Mac malware.  While Apple says this is due to an increase in Mac growth, I would tend to believe it is due to the lax security practices of the average Mac user.

Solution: Run Anti-virus

Anti-virus is an insurance policy, better to have it and not ever need it than to wish you had it when infected.  Make sure the software looks for virus, worms, and Trojans.  Securemac would be a good resource to find the best solution for you.

In conclusion be safe, remember virus authors know the weaknesses of a system and the attitude of the users.

Bonus –

Hats off to fellow St. Louisian Charlie Miller for hacking a MacBook Air in less than 2 minutes.  You can read about it at Infoworld