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"Mac attack" gains new meaning

This will probably fire up some of the True Believers out there:

"Macintosh Hacker Attacks Are on the Rise - Symantec

Reuters
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; 8:16 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hacker attacks on Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh OS X operating system, thought by many who use the Mac to be virtually immune to attack, are on the rise, according to a report from anti-virus software vendor Symantec Corp."

While Symantec didn't release details of how they came to that conclusion, it should come as little surprise. As Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said in the article

All these platforms have vulnerabilities - it's a fact of life ... The truth of the matter is that Mac is only a couple percentage points of (computer) shipments so it's not an interesting target.

Apparently the anti-virus company believes that strong sales for the new mini-Mac, which seems to be targeted to Windows users considering their next computer, could make things worse by increasing the number of Macs operated by "less-savvy users." They expect "the number of vulnerabilities can be expected to increase, as will malicious activity that targets them."


Now, before anyone blows a gasket, let's review a couple points. First technically-aware users will agree that the Free-BDS based OS X base is significantly more secure than today's Windows XP base. Which is a shame, really, since the Windows NT base was originally a very secure and powerful OS. Alas, Microsoft made it more "user friendly" in such a ways that damaged security.

Second, "more secure" doesn't mean "invulnerable," even though more than a few Mac-heads have a bad habit of saying things like "now that I own a Mac, I don't have to worry about trojans, viruses, or anything!" Um, no. You just have a lot less to worry about.

Third, while Symantec said it had documented 37 "high-vulnerabilities" in the past year in OS X, they have "almost always" been acknowleged and patched by Apple.

Finally, let's recall that selling anti-virus and other prophylactic applications is how Symantec makes money. Does this mean they're lying? Hardly. But I'm sure they wouldn't mind the extra income. :)

Bottom line: OS X still has a substantial lead over Windows XP in security, but it isn't invulnerable. No operating system is. And it is fairly easy to establish good habits while using XP to avoid 99% of the hacker/virus threat out there. Using Mozilla/Firefox is an excellent start. Just remember that no hardware or software solution is worry-free.

Me, I'd love to see the mini-Macs take off, if for no other reason to watch Redmond sphincters collectively tighten. They might even restore real security to their flagship operating system.

Heck, I wish I had the money to get a mini, but not right now. It would be great to plop it down next to my Athlon WinXP machine and my Thunderbird Win2000 system to see how it compares. The Apple networking is supposed to work very well with Windows nets these days.

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Comments (2)

Me personally, I'm considering a Mac, as my roommate owns one, and hasn't had a single internet/security problem for two years. I use firefox, steer clear of illicit downloads for the most part, and keep my computer a lot cleaner than most people I know, but even my PC is just wearing down.

I don't have any sort of adoration for Apple, but I would love to see the mini-Macs do well, if for no other reason, like you said, watch the freak-out begin.

I'm with Andrew- let the freak out begin!

I have one of each at home, and I've had far more issues with my pc than the mac. But I like each equally well, and I'd like to the Minis do well for competition's sake, if nothing else.

And the aforementioned freaking. Heh.

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