Ah, if there’s any need for another reason to embrace Mac OS X, here it is from the security analysts at Symantec: “To date, there is only one known mass-mailing worm that can infect the Macintosh. This worm, known as Mac.Simpsons@mm, is an AppleScript worm that can infect a Macintosh running Mac OS 8 – 9 and cannot infect Mac OS X. Norton AntiVirus for Macintosh versions 5 through 9, with virus definitions dated July 2001 or later, can detect this worm.” Right on!
Ah but the flip side is, the more people who embrace mac, the higher the odds that more little worms and virii become available…
Not so fast! I have a Mac G4 running the latest Mac OS X- Jaguar — I was the unfortunate victim of the Sobig virus that struck just last month (August, 2003) _ I did not open any attachments but my computer was inundated by the evil worm! I had to change my email address & run Norton Anti-Virus and Security to rid my poor machine of this thing… I know I am one in a million when it comes to this — BUT — IT can happen.
I can’t imagine how you could get the Sobig virus, Pam, I have to say. David Pogue, in his weekly New York Times Computing column, had a nice piece about why Mac OS X is so much less vulnerable than PCs, where he noted that Macs have a bunch of advantages, including:
– applications aren’t installed without an installer confirmation dialog box popping up
– no email program on the Mac automatically executes attachments or embedded scripts (which is really a staggeringly idiotic idea in the first place)
– Windows, by default, leaves five network ports open for public access. Mac OS X has ZERO ports open by default. A much smarter strategy.
It’s good stuff, and he also highlights that many of the benefits of Mac OS X in this regard are also shared by the other OS on my desktop: Linux.
It’s common mis-conception. Mac Users are just a vulnerable as anyone else in getting all the junk email generated by SoBig and other worm/viri on Microsoft systems. This is just email, not an infection. Your Mac has not been infected. You can open (or try to) those attachments all day long and they can’t infect your Mac. They are written very specifially to infect WIndows — the infection is when they get into a windows machine and start sending out all those emails. You are a victim of the virus in a second-hand, uninfected way. A simple spam filter will leave it behind.
The only way to think about this is through pragmatism.
There are two forms of malware you have to look out for. The worm/virus type that self-propogates, and the software that records your keystrokes and reports back to the hacker what credit card numbers and passwords you have keyed on what websites.
First option: the first hacker that manages to write a worm or virus like this will be the toast of the internet underworld. OS X has been out for over half a decade. Millions of machines running OS X are out there. Programs like Darwin and Python are available readily online that hackers could use to write malicious code. With the millions of people, millions of machines and hundreds of days, there have been NO VIRUSES OR WORMS THAT HAVE CRACKED OS X’s SHELL AND ESCAPED TO INFECT MACS IN THE REAL WORLD. If you can write a working Mac virus and pack it around a widget or a game, and get it to spread, I’ll eat a shoe. I mean it: I have a camera and I will film myself eating a shoe in small pieces and post it on the net. I refuse to believe that nobody has tried to crack the issue, or that mankind’s natural curiosity somehow crumbles in front of a Mac. There are groups, like SecureMac.com that point out how flaws in programs MAY POTENTIALLY infect a Mac, and these holes are fixed before anyone finds a way to exploit them, but NOBODY has cracked OS X in the real world.
Second option: billions of dollars are obtained in computer internet fraud every year. A lot of it is through keystroke-recording-malware. Even with Apple’s small fraction of the computer market, that’s still tens of millions of dollars every year in an untapped market. With so many Macs out there with no anti-virus software, don’t you think that crime syndicates and drug cartels would invest a few million if it guaranteed them a sector of the identity theft market, free from competition?
I’m a pragmatist and if it works, it works. Macs work and viruses haven’t got them. Not one, in a world with tens of thousands of viruses. So here’s how I visualize it…
When a computer goes online, it’s like building a house beside the Infobahn. Hackers are like burglers. When that house is a PC running Windows, four windows and a door are wide open as standard and most of the home owners have no idea how to close these holes. With a Mac, the house is like a tower with no visible doors. In fact, when the burglar’s eyes try to look at the Mac house, he doesn’t even know if there’s a tower there at all, or just a really dark part of the landscape.
You can’t break a window or bust down a door if there’s no window or door. You can’t burgle a house if you’re not even sure the house exists.