Seven facts on why you should have anti-virus running on your Mac.

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.

12 thoughts on “Seven facts on why you should have anti-virus running on your Mac.

  1. Wow, what FUD being tossed about. First we have a blog by a guy who sells software, who does not allow comments to this blog. That inspires confidence.

    Then a page from apple that is the equivalent of a warning on stove that reads, “Don’t touch burners while in use or injury may occur.”

  2. Well it certainly has Windows defenders gloating but Apple appears to be saying; “a small risk is more than no risk, so use protection.” 

    John Wilkins on SB has a few good links on the big picture, along with explanation.

    I can easily imagine a *nix user surfing carelessly, with a feeling of misguided invulnerability though.  Like SUV drivers spinning into the ditch the first time it snows because they think 4-wheel drive will replace good sense.

    (And Windows is a 15-passenger Dodge van in a strong crosswind)

  3. Basically it comes down to the same thing it always has. If you don’t download suspicious content you don’t have to worry about viruses. The only ones I have every gotten were from P2P downloading period.

    So it’s really a message of, just take the simple step to protect yourself and then you don’t need to worry.

    Personally I find the argument of “I don’t need antivirus on my system” to be a little silly. Why gloat about the fact you are opening yourself up to security holes? Unless you are using BSD as an OS you don’t really have a claim to make on security.

  4. It’s not just an issue of viruses anymore. Fake codecs which the user installs thanks to social engineering are one of the primary causes of infection these days. Doesn’t matter how bulletproof the OS is if the user can be tricked into installing the malware. Mac users are just as vulnerable to that attack vector as any Windows user.

  5. I haven’t used or needed antivirus software in the last 10 years of using Macs, I’m not about to start any time soon.

  6. I imagine there’s a lot of folks who feel the same way. Chances are good you can go a few more years without using anti-virus software. If that’s a risk you’re willing to take then good luck.

  7. For that matter, you’re probably pretty safe picking up strangers in the US in bars and having sex with them. Probably.

  8. Security-nut friends of mine tell me that the Mac is better, but is not bulletproof.  Some of the links in the article I posted above say essentially that as well.

    Same could probably be said of Linux.

  9. Been a Mac all my computer life, but ever since they switched over to Intel, I’ve been worried.

    My first Mac, a PowerMac 8100/80 I had for 13 years, before I finally decided to spring for an iMac.

    Just got this from a friend charged with virus protection at work: Apple takes down antivirus note.

    Which is just plain screwy.

  10. I’ve used Macs and PCs both pretty heavily over the years and I find the idea that eventually someone won’t write something malicious against Macs or that Macs are somehow immune to bad code kind of funny. I admit though, people are probably more likely to write something to infect Ipods and Iphones than worry about Mac users specifically.

    Bottom line? There hasn’t been a computer made ever that I couldn’t find a way to crash for reboot. I could get my old Atari consoles to freeze up without much effort.

    Besides, Macs are already running that viral mind control stuff in the background. wink

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