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Apple Steps Up Antivirus Promotion As Attacks Increase

Gordon Kelly


Apple Steps Up Antivirus Promotion As Attacks Increase

It's rare for Apple to admit any vulnerabilities with its Mac OS X platform, but with growing popularity comes growing responsibility...

Consequently the Cupertino giant has come forward to actively promote antivirus solutions this week as the company increasingly finds itself the target of cyber criminals and it has quietly posted a notice on virus protection stating: "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult."

Apple also actively promotes 'Intego VirusBarrier X5', 'Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh' and ' McAfee VirusScan for Mac' - though I can't imagine why anyone would run "multiple utilities" as the combination of Firewall, AV solution and common sense should serve the majority just fine.

Of course all this is old hat for Windows users who have been kicked from pillar to post with viruses, adware and phishing for many a year - primarily because Windows has by far the largest industry share. With this share dropping below 90 per cent for the first time last month however and Macs now hovering near the 10 per cent mark they've popped up on the radar of the less scrupulous. The recent 'AppleScript.THT' virus for example recently hit Mac OS X users attempting to log keystrokes and snag screen shots.

So be careful out there Mac users... oh and welcome to real world!

Update: Apple's pulling the note, calling it old and once again saying Macs are rock solid. The Jobsian universe has clearly got back into step.


Mac Virus Notification


December 2, 2008, 10:15 pm

I'm running windows, and don't have any anti virus software installed, and never gotten a virus (I do check every so often) This isn't about security, it's about common sense, it's about not visiting every dodgy website you can find or replying to those emails from HK1982@HSBC.cn that claim to be from your bank...

I foresee an increasing amount of mac users complaining about viruses, simply because they've never had to be careful because of their low market share and now with an increasing amount of viruses popping up for OSX they may start to realize that their OS is no more secure then Windows is.


December 2, 2008, 10:53 pm

OS X is more secure than Windows for many reasons, not least because of its UNIX architecture, but I'm not going to go into that.

Apple recommending the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities is fine... I assume they mean that solutions from a wide variety of vendors should be available, not that you or I should install multiple scanners on our machines. Virus writers will have a harder job if they've got three OS X AV vendors to fool instead of just one.

While I don't use AV on my Macs, it is necessary to some degree. But not because of OS X threats, almost all of which are trojans which, of all things, require the user to actually authenticate with their username and password to run the damn things. No. The reason is that viruses can be transmitted from Macs, which are unaffected, to Windows machines that are then damaged. The most prolific example is in the exchange of Office files, as these are actively used by both platforms.

Peter 9

December 2, 2008, 11:18 pm

Can anyone tell me why I don't need virus protection for the ipod touch when connected to my home wireless routers. Surely if I'm accessing the web on my touch it should have some sort of anti virus for it. I asked my local Apple dealer when I bought my touch and they said I didn't need any, but couldn't tell me why I didn't. So can anyone enlighten me.


December 2, 2008, 11:33 pm

Ben could you please explain why it is more secure, instead of making random claims?

I can always claim to have a better car than you, but I don't think you'll believe me until I told you why it is better.

Besides, saying that it is more secure because it is based on a UNIX architecture is pretty silly, that's the same as saying an AMD Phenom CPU has to be faster than Intel's Core 2 quad chips because it has an on-die memory controller.


December 2, 2008, 11:39 pm

bring on norton mac edition, and grindingly slow overall computer performance


December 3, 2008, 12:20 am

@Peter - it's a variant of Mac OS X and theoretically is different enough to be immune to viruses written for the desktop edition.


December 3, 2008, 4:15 am

The debate has been done to death, which is why I didn't want to get into it, but this article covers some aspects: http://seekingalpha.com/articl...

I don't think virus writers will get too far with OS X unless Apple make some pretty serious mistakes. There's certainly no need to use AV for Mac protection at the moment - only to be a good neighbour to Windows machines.


December 3, 2008, 4:52 am

@Helmore - Don't quite get that AMD/Intel comparison, or my head can't quite get around it :? Anyway, the one reason (even I can understand) why OS X is more secure then Windows is because only about 5% of computer users use it worldwide. If someone wants to write a virus, they'll write for the biggest platform, which at the moment is Windows. Of course, now that Macs are getting more market share I'm sure OS X will get more scares but compared to the mountain of viruses on Windows, I'd still take Mac's handful of trojans (excuse the phrasing).


December 3, 2008, 3:13 pm

...or you could pick a flavour of Linux and skin it to look and feel exactly like OS X.

Really, if you're that worried by viruses, just go with Linux. There isn't much of a learning curve to something like Ubuntu, and you can try it out without interfering with your own OS. I know it's not for everyone, but personally I think you can't beat an OS that lets you do anything you want to it.

The only reason I can think of to stick to Windows or OS X is that Linux doesn't run stuff like Photoshop.


December 3, 2008, 3:56 pm

Come on Avast! OS X!


December 3, 2008, 5:09 pm

@Peter, Can anyone tell me why I don't need virus protection for the ipod touch when connected to my home wireless routers.

Yes, unless your Touch is Jail broken then all App's in effect have already been virus checked by Apple, There are basically 2 ways you can get a virus on a PC, one Executing COM/EXE/VBS file etc directly, another by external attacks that find vulnerabilities that can cause buffer overuns etc, that can then allow the attacker to execute malicious code, eg. even attacks on your TCP/IP port could cause buffer overruns, aka (msBlaster), because your using a router this is usually not an issue, unless you have used NAT's or port forwarding. Also with the Touch it is unlikely you will have any TCP ports in what's called a Listening state anyway, so if you don't have a port open it's not vulnerable to attack. Now unless a damaging App gets past Apples testing, the only other way I could see the Touch getting a virus is by maybe going to a dodgy website that then generates some buffer overrun in the browser, that could then execute some malicious code.

As you can see, some people do moan about the speed of Apps getting the go ahead, but I suppose because they are making sure you don't get a bad App, this just takes that little bit more time. But remember if your Touch/Iphone is Jail broken, you are then more at risk, as they is no way you can tell if the App you are installing is safe.

Of course it's not impossible for a Virus to get onto your touch, but until a virus has made it onto the Touch then a virus checker is not of any use anyway, IOW: what would it be checking for?

Craig Turner

December 3, 2008, 7:00 pm

Ho-hum calm down, be a man and also use common sense. I won't be installing a AV because I don't visit dodgy sites, and regularly clean my cookie jar and history.

AV for Macs though must be shocked at Apple's link to them, expect major 'NEW EDITIONS, NEW UPDATES' from these companies. Their cash flow is about to flood.


December 3, 2008, 7:20 pm

@Peter: Well the primary anti-virus protection is keeping all programs up to date since viruses get onto a machine through bugs in a program (or user actions). A PC has so much code running that inevitably not all flaws are going to be caught or patched (either by the company or the user) in time, and an anti-virus is a second line of defense. I guess smartphones have not needed anti-virus programs because they're simpler, although I don't know when that'll start to change.

The Mighty Ben

December 3, 2008, 7:51 pm

This just in from news.cnet.com: "Apple late on Tuesday removed an old item from its support site that urged Mac customers to use multiple antivirus utilities and now says the Mac is safe "out of the box."

"We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate," Apple spokesperson Bill Evans said".

Personally, my Mac Mini has remained fast far longer than any PC I've ever had, & I put this down to being naturally virus-resistant. Long may that continue to be the case.


December 4, 2008, 4:08 am

@The Mighty Ben

"Personally, my Mac Mini has remained fast far longer than any PC I've ever had, & I put this down to being naturally virus-resistant." Wrong, I'm afraid. It's down to better design decisions in the operating system. I prime example of this is the registry on Windows machines. A good idea in theory, but a horrible mess in practice.


"Besides, saying that it is more secure because it is based on a UNIX architecture is pretty silly, that's the same as saying an AMD Phenom CPU has to be faster than Intel's Core 2 quad chips because it has an on-die memory controller."

No it's not. That is a poor and inaccurate metaphor.


December 4, 2008, 4:13 am


"...or you could pick a flavour of Linux and skin it to look and feel exactly like OS X."

With X11? Are you mad? X11 is a dire piece of software, with a poor design and an atrocious feel. How it became the de facto window system for nix boxes is beyond me.

Peter 9

December 8, 2008, 10:45 pm

Thank you guys, for all your answers

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