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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Please Don't Buy A Mac

"At this time, EarthLink doesn't offer a version of Spyware Blocker for Macintosh computers because spyware rarely infiltrates Mac operating systems.

"Like computer viruses, spyware is designed to reach as many people as possible. Since Macs aren't as prevalent as Windows, spyware creators and marketing companies are far more likely to target PC users.

"However, the popularity of Macs is increasing—due in part to iTunes, iPods, and the opening of new Apple stores. We continue to watch industry trends and conduct research about malicious adware, system monitors, keyloggers, and Trojan horses. If we ever see a need for spyware protection for Macs, we'll develop a stable, complete Spyware Blocker tool to help Mac members disable these programs."

(verbatim from the Earthlink site)

Posted by: MIKE ("Mac, Who Me?") JOHNSTON


Anonymous Neil Duffin said...

It's extra cost, but Intego ( offer anti-spam, anti-virus and firewall products for the Mac. I have them installed and they seem to work (osx 10.4.6) However, as EarthLink say, there aren't many viruses or spyware for the Mac yet... I prefer to be safe than pictureless ;)

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the Intego userer:
Safari has an anti-spam component, OSX has a built-in firewall and there are no Macintosh virus in the wild so why spend money on something that adds nothing to the mix?

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Google search for "first mac virus" or "first mac worm" turns up stories dated eariler this year on the first worm in the wild targeted at Macs. The worm spreads via iChat. (It is a worm rather than a virus because it requires the user to run it in order to infect the system.)

Symantec documents the worm under the name OSX.Leap.A. According to Symantec, the file does self-propogate, and does modify the host system.


11:21 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

"It's extra cost, but Intego ( offer anti-spam, anti-virus and firewall products for the Mac. I have them installed and they seem to work (osx 10.4.6)"

Comments like this are curious. I could build an app that arbitrarily sucks up CPU cycles doing jack-dittly, call it a spyware/virus blocker and no one would know any better. Since there is no way to verify these programs do anything, they amount to nothing more than snake-oil looking for a sucker to buy into it.

"Symantec documents the worm under the name OSX.Leap.A. According to Symantec, the file does self-propogate, and does modify the host system."

This comment is grossly misleading. Leap.a (otherwise known as "Oompa-Loompa") is extremely benign and only effects computers under very narrow circumstances on the same local network after several steps are taken by the user.

John Gruber goes into more detail in his article "Good Journalism."

I better clarify before anyone jumps to conclusions and labels me a "zealot" that I do believe it is only a matter of time spyware/malware will make it's way to the Mac. In fact, it's almost already here. The notorious Weatherbug spyware is downloadable for the mac right now. The difference from the Windows version however is that it is not currently spyware. I think it's a foot in the door. Build trust and then when the time is right they will update it and turn it into spyware. I bet after another company builds the first mac spyware and takes the initial heat in the press is when Weatherbug will fully activate.

One thing that won't happen to Macs that is happening to Windows is in the severity of infestation. OS X is inherently more secure than Windows due to how it's structured, how it handles accounts and permissions. So even when a virus comes along, its scope will be severely limited.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A properly configured Mac is substantially more difficult to compromise than a Windows system. If the user is paying attention to their surroundings! Users do not have admin or root privileges without first authenticating themselves--that "enter your password" box that pops up when you install new software or do an upgrade.

Getting that password prompt when its not expected is a clue that all is not as it should be. Don't authenticate and the spy/mal/worm/trojanware can't proceed.

It's called "least privilege" and is substantially more powerfull than all of the anti-anything software you might want to buy.

And if you really want to get your hands dirty, roll your own firewall. Do a search for OS X IPFW to find tons of sample scripts and tutorials.


3:39 PM  
Anonymous neil Duffin said...

Okay, this always causes flaming. I should have said, perhaps, that there aren't any Mac viruses yet.

OSX is designed to be more secure yes. However, most software has bugs and OSX is certainly not free from security issues. If it were, why are we having updates to plug them?

If a hole exists and people are looking for it, a virus will follow. The thing is nobody is looking too hard on the Mac right now. There is no profit at the mo. At some point people may notice the "it won't get me" attitude and think the market is ripe. The nature of scams is also changing. Virus / spyware is now evolving to extract money instead of cause direct damage - Mac's cost more, ergo owners have more money? However, once someone has cracked the seals on the Mac (if) then it can be used for damage or profit.

I'd rather spend a few CPU cycles to protect myself against possible data lost or financial loss. Perhaps others have data they can rebuild or money to burn.

Some of my data is not replaceable at any cost. I could back it up to DVDs, but since they aren't a secure form of backup either, the time / effort involved is dubious.

Even with packages such as the Intego ones installed there is no guarantee that I won't loose data. I could loose both copies on seperate drives at the same time (hardware failure), I could be the first person to be infected by the (as yet non-existent) virus - thereby negating the point of the virus checker. I could accidentally allow a vicious programme to be run.

However, leaving my 'door fully open' using the "there's no virus so I'm safe" policy doesn't seem to be to be a very advisable one to me. I lost count of the number of PC owner's I've had to help who ran that policy. I used to do the same myself 10 years ago.

The cost? Yeah, I spend a little money and a little CPU time. So? It's a small price to pay for the 'snake oil' that may just prove to protect me against the virus which would otherwise loose my data.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Hiding Pup said...

"Anonymous" has an interesting point - I raised the same thing with the Intego rep when she complained I wasn't selling enough Integoware... She looked rather baffled :-)

Macs now boot Windows via Bootcamp. The end is nigh and all will be judged.

5:35 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

I have used Macs for 12 years. I have Mac using friends and I read periodicals.
The first time I hear that anybody actually had a problem, then I'll start worrying.

7:10 PM  
Blogger terry chay said...


I love the title of the post! :-)

Others have already gone over the issues of Macs and viruses/worms (or lack thereof).

I thought I'd bring up that the argument brought up in the Earthlink article is known as Metcalfe's Law. Most analysis has shown that this argument is slightly fallacious (it overestimates the value of the network connections).

The most egregious counter-example I've seen is that the number of Apache server installations (such as here) is greater than the number of IIS installs by a factor of two or more. And yet, IIS has far more vulnerabilities, and those vulnerabilities have resulted in more worms, viruses and exploits than the vulnerabilities in Apache.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Bas Scheffers said...

First of all, Earthlink isn't the only source for virus protection in the world, there are solutions out there by other vendors, including for Mac. And I believe these do stop the two rather beneign OS X virusses in existence.

I have never seen a Mac (protected or not) infected with spyware or virusses, though it seems it does happen. However, I have seen and cleaned up said infiltrators on dozens of Windows computers that *were* protected, with the filters getting updates from their vendors several times a day.

Some protection that is available for Windows! Thank you for your insight, but I'll take my chances with a Mac.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't buy Mac, it's one of the most environmental unfriendly computer brands there is. At least according to Greenpeace:

(Actually, I quite like Mac. Although I don't have one :-)

Espen L

2:34 PM  

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