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article imageApple says its Macs are safe from malware out of the box - is it asking for trouble?

By Paul Wallis     Dec 3, 2008 in Technology
Apple is no longer recommending users install anti virus software. This may seem to be tempting fate, because although Apple’s Macs are famous, and promoted, as being virus free by any comparison with Windows there are potential risks.
On Tuesday Apple removed a 2007 Knowledge Base posting telling people to install "multiple anti-virus utilities" in Macintosh computers to thwart ill-willed software savants with arrays of defenses.
"We removed the Knowledge Base article because it was old and inaccurate," Apple spokeswoman Monica Sarkar said Wednesday.
"The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protections against malicious software and security threats right out of the box."
Cute, but highly debatable. Anyone could buy a Mac and find those technologies and get around them. Viruses, Trojans, and other pests are designed to exploit weaknesses in security software.
If Apple’s saying there are no weaknesses, it’s just not plausible. Microsoft gets a lot of flak for its security issues, but that’s more an indication of the level of concern, not a quality assessment of relative security capabilities.
Apple’s share of the personal computer market is mainly confined to core users. (Puns! Is there no relief?) The trouble with that idyllic situation is that if Mac users are a minority, iPod and iPhone users aren’t.
The commercial realities are that hackers attack Windows systems more often purely because of their huge market share. Apple and its technologies are now moving in to that demographic, making them much more likely targets.
Realistically, there’s no reason to believe Apple can stay immune from hacking, on purely market based logic.
“Safe out of the box”…maybe, for now. Apple’s one major asset is that it is a different system.
Most so called hackers are so lazy they don’t even write their own code, let alone research hacking other systems. They buy worms and malware. The criminal variety are more like businesses than the famous image of wild eyed tech freaks slaving among jury-rigged piles of hardware.
They probably haven’t got around to getting particularly interested in Apple yet, but assuming there's no danger really does look like asking for trouble.
There’s one very strange, but intriguing, element in this situation.
If Apple does have effective anti malware technologies, (presumably proprietary), there’s nothing to stop them releasing a version of those technologies onto the market for non-Apple systems, even Windows.
They could see what hackers do to try and get around them, and adjust accordingly. Unlike their competitors, they could start ahead of the game, and let their competitors take all the risks…
Just a thought…
More about Apple technologies, Anti virus, Hackers
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