Snow Leopard Reveals Cracks in Apple's Mac OS X Security Reputation

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-08-27 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Although Mac OS X is considered by many to be the most secure operating system available to end users, it does suffer from security issues. Perhaps the new malware detector in Apple's new Mac OS X Snow Leopard release will help prove that.

Mac OS X is viewed by many as the most secure operating system on the market. It's certainly considered far more secure than Microsoft's Windows operating system.  

But with a report hitting the wire Wednesday claiming Apple's new Mac OS X release, Snow Leopard, will feature a malware-detection tool, some of those beliefs might be put into question.

According to reports, Mac OS X will feature an application that will scan the user's Mac for known trojans. It will also flag malicious files if they are downloaded from Safari, iChat, Entourage and a few other applications. There's just one catch: that feature will only look for two trojans. Every other possibly damaging trojan will not be scanned for.

So while the feature probably won't keep too many users safe if they're affected by anything other than those two trojans, it's the fact that Apple felt compelled to build it into Mac OS X that should receive more attention. After all, this is a company that has created the mindset that Mac OS X is secure enough that users won't need to worry about all those malicious files they will find on Windows.

The myth of security

As a Mac OS X owner, I can say that the operating system has faced far fewer security issues than my Windows PC. It's a simple fact. But perhaps the reason for that isn't so simple. Apple, in many of its "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads, makes it a point to highlight the security issues Windows suffers from. In fact, it has become a key component in its marketing strategy.

But whether or not Mac OS X is truly more secure than Windows is up for debate. Security is a financial game. The more users, the greater the opportunity for malicious hackers to turn those affected individuals into cash. That's precisely why Windows, thanks to its dominating market share, is pelted with malware every day. Malicious hackers know that as long as they can target millions, they will find thousands that will succumb to their ploys.

That pool is much smaller on Mac OS X. Apple's operating system is woefully behind Microsoft in OS market share. And the chances of that changing anytime soon are slight. Realizing that, most hackers have realized that there's more to gain by targeting Windows users than Mac OS X users. More people equals more money. 

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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