Thursday, December 06, 2007

Are Macs Still Safe?

For a long time, one of the Macintosh's primary attraction has been its relative immunity from the horde of viruses that affect Windows-based computers. Certainly I have benefited knowing that I as long as I run my utilities on a regular basis and exercise a degree of cAution when surfing the Web I am fairly safe from attack. And of course when I surf using my ancient pre-OSX Macs, the odds of getting a virus are infinitesimal.

However, according to the Financial Times online edition, this may be changing. The Financial Times reports that hackers are increasingly targeting Mac users as Apple's share of the industry rises. The Times writes,
After years of relative safety, the Apple Mac is becoming an increasingly tempting target for malicious computer hackers, according to a new report published this week.

Security researchers have been aware of the threat to Apple since last year, when they detected the first piece of malicious code – or “malware” – specifically designed to target Apple.

Over the past few months, however, the number of malicious programs has increased, according to a report published this week by F-Secure, an internet security company.

“Over the past two years, we had found one or two pieces of malware targeting Macs,” said Patrik Runald, an F-Secure security researcher. “Since October, we’ve found 100-150 variants.”

So what is the good news? Unlike the Windows system, which contains a widely publicized number of vulnerabilities. Any PC user is used to the security patches that appear with monotonous regularity from Microsoft, usually without any real explanation. Apple in contrast has a reputation for being much more secure, and as a result, the new viruses rely on users installing the problem software themselves as opposed to a system vulnerability. So as long as a Mac user is educated and suspicious, he or she should continue to be safe from the hackers. As long as they don't have to use a Microsoft-based system, that is!

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