The security through obscurity that Mac users have enjoyed for years is finally starting to crumble and even Apple is owning up to it. They recently put out a support advisory last month in which they recommended that Mac user start running anti-virus software on their machines. It’s long been a gloating point for Mac users that anti-virus software was unnecessary on their systems, but as Apple’s market share increases it’s getting a point where there’s a profit motive for malware authors to start writing for the Mac platform and some of them already are.
Still there’s a resistance to the idea that the Mac may be vulnerable to the same sorts of malicious software that Windows users are and that prompted Graham Cluley to ask in a blog entry Do you really need anti-virus on your Apple Mac?
It started with just a small pebble being dropped into a pond. Apple updated one of its support advisories on 21 November, informing its customers that they are recommended to run anti-virus software.
Most people would never have noticed this announcement. I didn’t at first. I only heard about it when I saw the guys from Intego mention it on their Apple security blog on 25 November. A couple of days later, recovering from a bout of man-flu, I blogged about a new piece of Apple malware and mentioned in passing that Apple were now recommending their customers run anti-virus software.
Today, however, that small pebble dropped by Apple has turned into a tidalwave of commentary – and we’re seeing lots of news stories about Apple urging Mac users to protect themselves with anti-virus.
So, do you really need anti-virus on your Apple Mac?
From there he goes on to list seven facts and the comes to the following conclusion:
So, back to my original question, do you really need anti-virus on your Apple Mac?
The answer is yes.
It’s worth noting that Mr. Cluley works for Sophos, a company that produces anti-virus, anti-spam, firewall software packages for both big and small businesses, so it’s possible he may have a conflict of interest in promoting anti-virus software on the Mac. The fact that Apple has recommended the practice and that Mr. Cluley has been active in anti-virus research for some time prior to joining Sophos should help balance that out. That and the seven facts he lists make a pretty good argument.
The threat for Apple users is still relatively small compared to what Windows users face, but if Apple continues to gain market share then it won’t take long for it to grow. Of course the best defense is being educated about the threats, but for a lot of people that’s a commitment they don’t seem to be able to make.