Apple’s Stand – Antivirus Software and Mac Computers

One of the strongest arguments Mac users claim as why to use Apple products over PCs and Microsoft Windows products is that Apple computers are not at risk from malware and other intrusions.

However, that’s a dangerous path, and even one that Apple says is not true. As far back as 2002, Apple recommended that its users use separate antivirus software. In a March 5, 2002, message to its users, Apple wrote:

“Regularly check for viruses on your hard disk using an anti-virus program, especially if you download files from the Internet or share files with others. Check periodically for any updates to the anti-virus programs you use to ensure that the programs are scanning for the latest known viruses. Although virus infections are rare, they do exist and can cause problems with (and sometimes damage) your files or application programs.”

The problem is that Apple has given out mixed signals when it comes to this message. In 2006, during their well received advertising campaign that equated Mac computers to a young, good-looking man and PCs to an old, frumpy, uncool man, Apple claimed that there were 114,000 known viruses that could attack PCs, and none that would infect Macs.

But according to a 2008 report by, cybercriminals have gone away from trying to defeat operating system software and are now going after weaknesses in applications, such as Web browsers. Around that same time, Microsoft reported that 90 percent of vulnerability attacks targeted applications while only 6 percent of vulnerability attacks targeted operating system software.

Leading  antivirus security software producers also warn that it doesn’t matter what Web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) is used on which platform, these attacks are just not traveling through traditional means.

The most common way cybercriminals are using to circumvent operating system protections is to use the Trojan horse method of delivering malware. As the name implies, a Trojan horse is malware that is disguised as something useful or beneficial, only to spring its trap once the program is on the computer. Particularly for Web browsers, this method may entail convincing a user to install a video viewer or other add-on, only for it to directly deposit the malware like a computer virus onto the computer.

Between 2007 and 2008 there were two Trojan horse attacks that specifically targeted Apple-based computers, including one that specifically targeted users that viewed online adult sites.

As stated before, both Apple and Microsoft recommend their users to employ solid antivirus software to prevent these types of attacks. Symantec actually produces its anchor program, Norton AntiVirus, for both platforms.

Norton Antivirus for Mac features far fewer features than its products for Windows because of the stronger base operating system software. However it does feature:

Software vulnerability protections – This closes the holes against attacks through software and applications, such as Web browsers.
Virus detection – Norton AntiVirus automatically scans for and removes viruses with a simple interface.
Scanning capabilities – The program also scans downloads and attachments on incoming e-mails for viruses.
No drain on resources – With its latest technologies, Norton AntiVirus will not interrupt other programs, such as online gaming or watching videos.

Other solutions
Even though attacks on operating system software is in complete decline, it’s still vitally important for all computer users to keep their operating system software up to date. It would not be out of the question for the paradigm to shift back the other way if protecting application software vulnerabilities became the main focus to the detriment of strong operating software systems.

Another method to prevent these attacks, especially on Apple based computers, is to learn the tricks that cybercrime uses to fool users into downloading or accepting their malware without question. Only downloading files and applications that come from reliable sources is a good start. And if a request seems suspicious, ignore it and close down the browser immediately. Users should especially be careful about free downloads.

By using antivirus software, keeping operating system software updated, and taking care when downloading files, Apple users can make sure their computers have the best protection available.

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