Rhodri Marsden: Am I really safe from computer viruses on a Mac?

Cyberclinic

I've always been complacent about the dangers posed by myxomatosis. I'm not a rabbit, after all, and I possess few rabbit-like characteristics other than a fondness for carrots, so I've never felt the urge to find a vet deranged enough to vaccinate me. Mac users tend to have a similar attitude towards computer viruses, figuring that it's simply not their problem – and this view has been tacitly supported by Apple in the past, with advertising campaigns that have emphasised how impervious Macs are to malware. While geeks will debate endlessly whether Macs are inherently more secure, the undeniable fact is that most hackers just haven't bothered attacking them because they represent fewer than 4 per cent of computers worldwide. After all, if you were hell-bent on sending a robot to wreak havoc on, say, Britain's food outlets, you'd program it to head for branches of Tesco rather than Ted's Food-Mart.

Companies like Symantec and McAfee have tried relentlessly to sell Mac antivirus software for years, and often talk up the threat posed by Mac viruses. But the number of Macs that have ever succumbed to serious infection is comparatively minuscule, and surveys have shown that fewer than 10 per cent of Mac users even bother installing such software. However, as Apple's market share increases, it's more likely that Mac malware will spread. Because whatever they may think, Mac users are just as likely to fall for the same social engineering tricks – clicking on dodgy weblinks, opening email attachments without thinking – as their Windows-using cousins.

The question is when the threat might be worth taking seriously. There is a Mac virus currently circulating – brought to our attention by Symantec – that lurks in dodgy copies of iWork and Photoshop CS4, works its way under the bonnet of your machine and has the potential to connect with other compromised Macs to form some kind of evil botnet. But if you're not a "high-risk" user who downloads material whose provenance is unclear, it's unlikely to affect you – so the decision of when, if ever, to buy antivirus software is analogous to the one about how long you're prepared to hang on to a rising balloon. Symantec and McAfee would say that putting off that purchase is a false economy – but the vast majority of Mac users will only get our their credit cards until they've fallen victim. If, indeed, they ever do.



Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic

Currently under discussion: What might end up replacing The Pirate Bay?

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Director - Product Management

    £75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence