I saw the article yesterday splashed on front pages of news outlets, “Viruses Catch Up to the Mac,” and knew immediately that it was uninformed FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Not only because I follow the Macintosh world, where, in fact, viruses have not caught up to the Mac, but because it starts out with the story of one guy who did some vague actions.
Benjamin Daines was browsing the Web when he clicked on a series of links that promised pictures of an unreleased update to his computer’s operating system.
Instead, a window opened on the screen and strange commands ran as if the machine was under the control of someone — or something — else.
In reality, a few proof-of-concept viruses have been created which have extremely limited scope of damage. The vulnerabilities have mostly been addressed. Oh, and it sounds like the virus that this guy ran into happened in January or February, so apparently the timeliness of the article hasn’t caught up to the Mac, either.
What really gave it away for me was this bit at the end:
With new Macs running the same processor that powers Windows-based machines, far more people will know how to exploit weaknesses in Apple machines than in the past, when they ran on the PowerPC chips made by IBM Corp. and Motorola Corp. spinoff Freescale Semiconductor Inc.
Quick reminder: The viruses and spyware on your PC take advantage of Windows vulnerabilities, and have nothing to do with processors.
But don’t take my word for it. Read John Gruber’s excellent deconstruction of the article: Daring Fireball: Good Journalism.
Who exactly is touting the Mac as “immune to such risks”? Goodin doesn’t say, but his word is good enough for me. I’m sure whoever they are, they’re experts.
I, on the other hand, had never been under the impression that the Mac was either magically or technically “immune” or “invulnerable” to viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, malware, and so forth. Rather, I thought it was simply the case that, for whatever reasons, such software isn’t a problem for Mac users and hasn’t been for the last 15 years or so. I.e. that Macs aren’t magically protected, and that in theory, malware could be written to target the Mac, but that the point is that in practice, in the real world, they aren’t.
On the other hand, Macs do happen to be immune to Windows viruses and spyware and adware and Trojan horses, thousands of which are discovered every month. But why sweat the details?
Final quick reminder: Yes, the potential for Mac viruses does exist. No, they’ve not appeared in any meaningful way on the Mac yet.
Bonus: Go watch Apple’s new Get a Mac ads; “Viruses” and “Restarting” are particularly enjoyable.