A recent study done by a cyber security firm known as F-Secure, found that 58 new threats to the Mac operating system were discovered between April and December of 2011. It is a commonly perpetuated falsehood amongst consumers that viruses and malware are only issues for PC platforms, not Macs. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. Viruses are like any program; they have to be written with platform specific languages, with instructions written for that machine, operating system, type of processor, etc. What this means in simple layman’s terms is that in order to infect a Mac, you must develop software designed for a Mac.
So while it is technically true that Macs have historically been far less likely to become infected with a virus or malware, the reasons for this discrepancy should be examined. Is it really that Macs are so much more secure? The reality is that Macs are only less likely to be infected…so far, because there are less of them in operation as opposed to PC platforms. As such, they represent a lower possible return on any investment in time and money a cyber criminal or criminals may choose to invest in developing and spreading malware. At this point, because the Mac operating system still owns a minority of the market share, it is comparatively safer than PC operating systems…for now. One scenario that could happen to make attacks on Macintosh computers more common: an increase of Market share of MacOS X computers. Macs must control enough of the market to entice profit-driven malware and viruses to be more commonly developed.
As Internet usage and personal computer ownership continues to become more common the world over, it is entirely plausible that niche-market viruses could develop to focus on Mac operating systems. Remember that while the Mac system is – at this point – more secure, it is more a result of being a less common target of cyber-criminals, and not because the system is inherently more secure. Be wary of links from people you don’t know, or spam emails, as one wrong click can expose your Mac to malware in the same fashion it would a PC. As Macs become ever-more popular, expect the number of threats to increase in a linear fashion.
“Think Your Mac is Immune to Malware? Think Again” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.