Rhodri Marsden: Am I really safe from computer viruses on a Mac?
Wednesday 29 April 2009
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 email@example.com 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 & Style blogs
Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
Everyone should watch this boy's reaction to learning he will be a big brother
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Ashley Madison hack: Just three in every 10,000 female accounts on infidelity website are real
A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...
£30000 - £34000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Manager...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Infrastructure Manager - ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...