What! You think apples are immune?

Posted: January 24, 2009 by datechguy in tech
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Glenn Reynolds briefly touched on a subject that has been a pet peeve of mine even when I was blogging at HiWired. Mac Virus’. For a decade Mac uses have decided that they need little or no virus protection but were led to believe that Macs by their very nature would not get and can’t get virus’. The spread of all kinds of virus’ on Microsoft Personal Computers and their proliferation gave their argument meat. The fact that the Mac was a niche market with a more computer savvy user base didn’t hurt either.

Lets cut to the chase: Microsoft’s near monopoly status is why it is the main target of virus’. Here is why:

Monopolies by nature are inefficient:

When you don’t have to compete you don’t have to worry about QC as much. Microsoft OS is a good product, like the Model T it has made possible the PC revolution at a price that the average person can afford. For that alone Bill Gates deserves thanks from humanity but any monopoly gets sloppy. The lack of competition breeds arrogance, that leads to weaker code, the need to make everything backwards compatible takes some of the blame here, and the Microsoft is Evil meme inspired many people to write attack code.

Virus’ and spyware as revenue sources

There was a time when virus were written and used by geeks to prove their computer manhood. These days however are gone. A large amount of commerce now travels along the net. Bills are paid, investments made, shopping, banking etc etc etc… Why risk life and limb with a gun at a bank when you can steal tens of thousands with the click of a button? Even better if you can steal $20 from 20,000 people, that’s $400,000 with very little risk. Most people will just eat a $20 loss. Their time is worth more than the fuss. With 90% of people on Microsoft PC’s why bother writing code for the people on Apple PC? Like Willie Sutton the thieves went where the money was.

It would seem to me that since most Mac users were using little or no protection there is a large niche market for the enterprising virus/spyware writer and some have ventured there, but a secret weapon has emerged that has helped hasten this move: Windows Vista!

Vista’s legendary unpopularity much of it earned but some not has helped change the equation. A fair amount of average users have migrated to the MAC. Better still most of these people have ignored the threat of virus, trojans and spyware in the belief that their Mac can’t get them.

As the user population of the MAC increases the unlocked Mac doors will be opened by those out to steal a buck. As applications become more web based and portable that will also increase the danger.

Like AIDS the overwhelming majority of virus/spyware infections come from risky behavior. A change in behavior and some simple protective steps decrease your chance of infection significantly. Risky behavior is no less risky just because it is done on a MAC. Unlike AIDS people are actively trying to infect you that’s how they make their living and times are tough. They are not going to stop just because you like Steve Jobs.

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