Previous 1 2 Next 19 Replies Latest reply: Apr 20, 2009 7:26 PM by Travis A.
knownothing Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
I have ALWAYS had a mac dating back to the old Macintosh II and dread whenever I HAVE TO use a windows. Many of my friends and employees are windows fans and I have found myself defending mac's when I do not know the facts. I would greatly appreciate it if someone could educate me on this topic.

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.6)
  • Travis A. Level 6 Level 6 (14,970 points)
    The simple answer is that it is much harder to create something that could replicate itself and pass itself on through Macs. It simply is impossible to get something to run with administrator privileges on a Mac OS X machine without the user typing in their password. Most people will not click on some random link in an email or on a shady website and then type in their password when prompted. It's this basic level of security that is present on Macs (that simply is not there in Windows) that gives Mac OS X a higher inherent level of security.

    There are other things in Windows that make it a fairly easy target. Internet Explorer (and its integration into the OS) is one, "Active Desktop" is another. If you Google around a little on security there are numerous articles that detail the flaws in these products.

    Windows is what may be termed "low hanging fruit". The Mac is analogous to the highest fruit on the top of that tree. Its not the "obscurity" of the OS that matters, it is how easy it is to exploit that really matters. The people that write malware are looking for the easiest target, and that happens to be Windows. The fact that they get the largest population with Windows is a bonus to them. Trust me, if it was easy to create exploits in OS X, there would be malware running around.

    --Travis
  • Michael Flynn Level 4 Level 4 (3,490 points)
    Two reasons, first is the market share of the mac. Its much lower then that of a windows machine and to that point virus makers want a wide audience for the malicious ware so its basically not worth their effort.

    Second reason is the architecture of OSX, its not as wide open and prone to security holes as windows is. So again the virus makers can easily produce a virus for windows and have a large target to infect.

    This doesn't mean its impossible to write a virus for the Mac, just that its not the platform of choice.
  • neuroanatomist Level 7 Level 7 (31,690 points)
    Michael Flynn wrote:
    Two reasons, first is the market share of the mac. Its much lower then that of a windows machine and to that point virus makers want a wide audience for the malicious ware so its basically not worth their effort.

    Second reason is the architecture of OSX, its not as wide open and prone to security holes as windows is. So again the virus makers can easily produce a virus for windows and have a large target to infect.


    I really think it's the second reason much more than the first. In fact, the supposed 'invulnerability' of the Mac OS to viruses would likely represent a significant temptation that may very well outweigh the desire for a larger target population (as in, "They said it couldn't be done...<evil laugh>muah-ha-ha-ha-ha</evil laugh>").
  • J D McIninch Level 5 Level 5 (4,060 points)
    There's a third reason: there are relatively simple virus and spyware development kits for Windows.

    The fact of the matter is that most virus/spyware developers don't know the internals of Windows well-enough to write Windows viruses on their own. Instead, there's a small cadre of people that do and sell toolkits for writing the viruses. Writing Windows viruses, therefore, takes little practical effort.

    OS X would make viruses difficult to write and auto-propagate by the nature of its design, but not impossible. If Apple continues to enjoy its recent success, you're going to see the thing happen -- there will be a few people intimately familiar with the internals of the OS and environment and develop full-blown toolkits around whatever exploits they can identify (only one is really needed).
  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (169,820 points)
    it simply is impossible to get something to run with administrator privileges on a Mac OS X machine without the user typing in their password.

    To be fair and correct, it's not really "impossible". There have been vulnerabilities documented that could allow an appropriate exploit to elevate itself to administrator status. So Mac users shouldn't become complacent about the potential for future attacks, though as of yet no exploit has been released to the wild that would be able to mount such an attack (the exploits so far have largely been what I consider "boneheadware", packaging a trojan horse program in something that purports to be pirated software or ****).
  • Travis A. Level 6 Level 6 (14,970 points)
    Thanks Dave, I had forgotten about those exploits. You don't happen to know off-hand if they've been patched do you? If not, I will do the research a little later in the day.

    --Travis
  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (169,820 points)
    You don't happen to know off-hand if they've been patched do you?

    Some have, some apparently have not. I don't want to get into specifics, though the information (or at least the claims by independent researchers and hackers) is pretty widely available.

    Regards.
  • svermill Level 1 Level 1 (30 points)
    It's quite simple! In excess of 99% of all virus writers are OS X users!

    ;~)
  • LCee Level 1 Level 1 (65 points)
    I also think the makers of the virus software has a hand in inventing viruses. It's uncanny how they know the names, where they reside and what their functions are. Without viruses they would be out of work. Just knowing that OS X is virtually virus proof is enough to quit Windows. It's been really nice not having an anti-virus running in the background chewing up resources.
  • tthiel1 Level 2 Level 2 (160 points)
    Security through obscurity is a myth. There were plenty of viruses for pre-OS X Macs. Also most serious virus etc. writers seek fame and the first to get a real functional virus, trojan etc. would get the glory they are looking for. Plus most Windows malware is written by "script kiddies' who copy some existing malware and slightly modify it. Not a difficult thing to do.
    The Unix operating systems was designed from the start as a multi-user OS. Users and their processes are not allowed to trip over each other originally for stability reasons.
    Windows on the other hand was designed as a user OS first and a connected network or internet enable OS second much later. Plus Windows has a ton of cruft built up over the years including process that serve no purpose that are easily accessible. Also Microsoft has done a lot of questionable things wiht Windows architecture in order to give themselves a competitive advantage over competitors who do not have as much access to Windows internals. It's a real mess that at this point can only be solved by a complete redesign.
  • userremoved Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Mac OS X is really just much more secure. Fist of all, there're less viruses out there made for Macs. I think Apple only owns like 6% of the market share or something like that. Anyways, the bottom line is, this is what a hacker is thinking:
    -Why build viruses for Macs if less people use them?
    -Even if more people used them, they're ore secure...what are the chances my virus will actually work?

    So basically, even if you wanted to make a virus for a Mac, I don't think it will be too sucessful. Windows tends to be more vulnerable because Microsoft neglected security until Windows Service Pack 2. Macs are built upon a solid UNIX foundation, and their OS is constructed to be secure and prompt you with simple and not annoying (like Windows Vista) warning when opening applications, and there is no such thing as Drive-by downloads without your knowing-so with Safari. And viruses couldn't access your stuff without you finding out, because it can't perform administrative tasks without Mac OS X prompting you for your password. Overall, Macs tend be at less risk of getting viruses and spyware because they're a smaller target, and they were built secure, whether or not you have Anti-virus software
  • Network 23 Level 6 Level 6 (11,860 points)
    neuroanatomist wrote:
    Michael Flynn wrote:
    ...the market share of the mac. Its much lower then that of a windows machine and to that point virus makers want a wide audience for the malicious ware so its basically not worth their effort.

    ...the supposed 'invulnerability' of the Mac OS to viruses would likely represent a significant temptation that may very well outweigh the desire for a larger target population (as in, "They said it couldn't be done...<evil laugh>muah-ha-ha-ha-ha</evil laugh>").


    That's so true. Security through obscurity hardly applies to the Mac...Apple is one of the least obscure computer companies in existence due to their high profile visibility. They are a huge target in terms of the PR someone would get if they could break into the millions of Macs out there.
  • tthiel1 Level 2 Level 2 (160 points)
    You don't understand how hackers think or what they want. They want fame and glory even if they have to remain anonymous. That is why hacking the Mac would be a huge feat. It's just much harder to do.

    It is not a small target in any event. Certainly the percentage of Mac laptop users is much, much higher than 6%.

    To say that Microsoft "neglected" security until SP 2 is very wrong. many, many security patches were made available to XP years before SP 2 and Microsoft devoted a lot of time, effort, and money to making their OS' and applications secure. Just because they didn't solve the problem up to and including SP 2 doesn't mean they didn't try.

    Message was edited by: tthiel1
  • Bassem Elias Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)
    I can't believe I'm having to do this (defend Microsoft a little here), but the reality is that Windows has a lot more unknowns to deal with than does Apple. Apple has a distinct advantage in controlling both hardware and software. It is also using an OS that is based on a form of UNIX that has proven fairly stable through decades of international use, fixes and debugging.
    So, to say that Windows is less secure is a bit naive. It has many, many more attackers to deal with. In fact, at the last "hackers" symposium, it was shown that Safari was the least secure browser and the first to fall.
    The only problem is that the way in which these competitions are setup are inherently in favor of systems like Microsoft. If you give anybody admin rights to login to a system and setup an application to control it remotely you're going to find people that can perform this feat. The real issue is what is the likelihood of that happening? It is like leaving a car with the doors open in the middle of the street saying "try to steal this" and leaving a screw-driver and wire cutters on the driver's seat.
    The whole point about OS X is that they make great efforts to keep the identity of the car invisible to begin with... it is like it is in a closed garage, locked, security system activated and lo-jack to boot. Maybe not the most secured, but why bother trying if there are plenty of easier targets?
    If you can explain it like that to someone in your family, they may understand it conceptually. It really has little to do with how many systems are out there. Apple just has a much better (imho) way of addressing the issue than does Microsoft. I've been proudly using Macs since 2001 and have NEVER had one virus, trojan horse, or anything of that nature on any of my systems.
    But the biggest benefit of all (if you're looking to convince your family of the benefits of a Mac) is very simple; after all is said and done, Apple saves you time. They don't "avoid" problems by bringing out new products every week (i.e. see cell phone manufacturers). They provide a product and continue to refine it long after you've purchased it. The issue isn't viruses/trojans, etc., it is all the time wasted talking/writing about it and fixing/dealing with it that you save... (like reading this long post for instance...)
    Have fun!
Previous 1 2 Next