Facing Up to the Truth

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

But Mac OS X security has become a hot-button issue lately because those hackers are starting to realize that Mac OS X owners have a swagger Windows users don't. Apple has fostered a mentality that makes Mac OS X users believe they won't face any security issues. They feel safe on Mac OS X. It's what the malware distributors want them to believe. And it's precisely why Mac OS X security has become such a front-page issue as of late.

More outbreaks

Over the past few months, we have seen several Mac OS X security issues hit the wire. From security outbreaks to an update that included several security fixes, it was becoming clear that Mac OS X's reputation for strong security wasn't as reliable as some believed. And if Mac OS X Snow Leopard does, in fact, feature that new malware detector, it could change everything. Just don't expect Apple to change.

"The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box," Apple wrote on the company's Mac OS X Snow Leopard page. "However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, anti-virus software may offer additional protection."

I'm a little shocked by that statement. Although Apple does admit that no system is totally immune from issues, it says anti-virus software "may" offer additional protection. I think that perpetuates the myth that end users don't need to worry about Mac OS X security.

It would be more honest for Apple to say that users should install anti-virus software for additional protection. It would have saved Apple from any criticism it might face if its users face a widespread security outbreak. The company could say that it was warning consumers the whole time, but they just didn't want to listen.

Say what you will about Microsoft and its less-than-stellar handling of security, but at least it makes it a priority. It knows that Windows users face security problems. It understands that it can't do everything. So in an attempt to make it right, the company promotes the use of third-party software to ensure users are doing everything they can to be kept safe.

Perhaps that's what Apple has planned with its new malware detector in Snow Leopard. Maybe this the beginning of Apple admitting that its operating system is just as likely to suffer security issues as any other operating system. I really do hope it is.

But if I had to judge from history, I doubt Apple will changes its tune.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, 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 http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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