It’s official: After years of claiming that its operating systems were immune to viruses, worms and other malware, Apple has conceded that its Mac computers are indeed susceptible to the threats which permeate the internet.
Rising to this challenge, Phoenix Software is introducing antivirus and Internet security solutions for Mac to the South African market over the next few weeks.
According to Brad Stein, head of the Apple Mac division at Phoenix Software in South Africa, Apple’s popular Mac OS-X was long considered to be outside the interests of the writers of viruses, Trojans and other malicious code.
“However, as Apple computers grow in popularity, miscreants have recognised the opportunity which is presented by an almost completely undefended segment of the online population – the millions of Apple users,” he says.
Finding a worm in your Apple has become a distinct possibility, one which even Apple itself has had to admit to. Stein says that despite initial (and lasting) reluctance to do so, the company has publicly recognised the virus and malware threat to its operating system. “This highlights the need to use the best antivirus software to protect computers running Mac OS X,” he notes.
On the Apple website, the company states that ‘Mac OS X offers a multilayered system of defences against viruses and other dangerous malware,’ which ‘prevents malicious commands from finding their targets’.
Beyond recognising the malware threat, Apple admits that the techniques it includes in Mac OS X aren't enough to fully protect Macs from viruses and malware. The company provides security advice, saying, ‘since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, antivirus software may offer additional protection’.
Apple's attitude toward the malware risk in the past has been careless, especially in its TV commercials, suggesting that malware targeting the Mac does not exist. This change in the company's position shows that Apple has realised that the threat is real.
Stein says it is worth noting that malware writers are increasingly focusing their efforts on achieving financial gain from their nefarious activities. “Mac malware is not, therefore, a shortcoming on Apple’s behalf, but rather a factor of opportunism on the part of virus writers,” he says.
Be that as it may, he says it is apparent that Mac owners should protect themselves from potential exposure to Internet-borne threats. “Those threats are the same as the PC-world; key loggers capturing passwords, interruption of business, compromise of sensitive information.”
Furthermore, Stein points to the corporate policy of many companies, which refuse to allow unprotected computers on to their networks. “The fact is that your Apple can act as a vector – it can have a PC virus of which you are unaware, but which can pass on to other PCs via email or data transfer,” he says.