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For All Those People Who Have Macs Because They Don’t Get Viruses

Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 22:05 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Computer virusI’ve had a personal computer of one kind or another for about 18 years. Every machine I’ve ever owned ran on Windows operating systems. The first one, a Packard Bell desktop computer that had a 486 processor and ran Windows 3.x, was an advertised special at Lechmere; when I got there the morning of the sale, they were already supposedly sold out and were offering a more expensive model instead. I accused them of a bait-and-switch, so to shut me up they gave me a further discount on the display model. When I got it home, I found out it was infected with a virus. Thus I learned early on about the importance of computer security.

I used to laugh at people who said they bought Macs because “Macs don’t get viruses.” Some even went so far as to claim their machines were so secure that they didn’t need anti-virus software. I would respond that Macs didn’t get viruses only because hackers didn’t bother writing malicious programs for machines that were but a tiny fraction of all personal computers. It’s the same reason why the 9/11 hijackers didn’t fly their planes into Dairy Queen drive-ins in rural midwestern farm towns; the low level of damage wouldn’t be worth the trouble. I figured that was bound to change if Apple could ever get more than a 5% share of the PC market.

Now I see, via Glenn Reynolds, this report that hackers are now directing their attentions to Apple machines.

In the past, malicious attacks on the Mac platform have been few and far between. More than 90 percent of the desktop market share used to go to Windows, so that’s where cybercriminals focused their time. But in recent months, OS X adoption has been rising, and similarly the number of threats (like last year’s MacDefender trojan horse) have been rising.

“The OS X platform has always been as potentially hacked and compromised as any other platform, but it just hasn’t been targeted until now,” Dave Marcus, director of advanced research and threat intelligence with McAfee Labs, told Wired.

[ . . . ]

“The interesting thing about the exploits over the past few days is that the bad guys are using the same techinques [sic] on a Mac as they’d use on a PC or tablet,” Marcus said. “They’re using rigged documents and websites, Java exploits — very much mimicking the methodology used in the PC world.”

The lesson is simple: Just as it’s a good idea to lock your doors even if you live in a small town, it’s a good idea to protect your computer with security software and take other sensible precautions even if you use a Mac. Believe me, the little extra effort is a breeze compared to the hassle of having to rid your machine of a virus.

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