Mac's Supposed Immunity to Security Threats Gone Forever: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-05-26

Mac's Supposed Immunity to Security Threats Gone Forever: 10 Reasons Why

Over the years, Mac users have been conditioned to believe that their computers were immune from security threats. The folks who went to the Apple Store to get a Mac were told by friends, family and even Apple that they were much safer using a Mac than they would be with a Windows-based computer. And so, over the years, a general sense of complacency has emerged.

But that house of cards came crumbling down as of late when Mac Defender starting making its rounds in the Mac ecosystem. Apple took too long to respond to the issue, and as expected, many of its supporters called it a red herring. But as the number of people who complained about these fake antivirus scams started to pile up, it quickly became clear that it was not a joke. Mac Defender, along with other malicious variants related to it, has become a major problem for Apple users.

The time has come for those folks and all others to acknowledge the simple fact that many security experts have been saying for far too long: Macs are not immune from security threat and users have to protect themselves.

Read on to find out why:

1. Perception is everything

Over the years, Mac users have been under the erroneous belief that they were safe from any malicious software that was affecting Windows PCs. Granted, infecting a Mac with malware may be somewhat more difficult, but it can be done, as Mac Defender has proved. Now, all those malicious hackers who might have perceived Mac OS X to not be worth their time could be changing their minds. Perception is everything. Among scammers the perception is shifting toward believing attacking Mac OS X is a worthwhile exploit.

2. The criminals see a money-making opportunity

Going forward, a growing number of cyber-criminals will attack Mac OS X because they see it as a fine money-making opportunity. Make no mistake, the reason cyber-criminals attack machines is to turn a profit for their efforts. Considering Macs are exploitable, hardly ever secured by an anti-malware program and run by people who are cynical when it comes to security, they seem like a better money-making opportunity than ever.

3. Users became lazy

Unfortunately, Mac users are simply lazier than Windows users when it comes to security because they are complacent. They believe they're safe, and they don't spend enough time thinking about protecting themselves when they use a Mac. A very small number of Mac owners are running security software as there is still a large contingent of folks who believe there's nothing to worry about. As long as those people continue on that path, cyber-criminals will keep attacking Mac OS X.

4. The threats are everywhere now

More than ever, people around the globe are facing threats from all sides. Not only do they need to worry about malicious files in email attachments, but they need to think about issues cropping up on the Web, in social networks and elsewhere. Simply put, the number of places malicious files can be hiding nowadays is greater than ever. There isn't a single Mac user who's immune to that.

Cyber-criminals Happy with Mac Status Quo


5. The security software isn't up-to-par

Those who use security software on Mac OS X will quickly realize that, in many cases, the programs just don't do enough to keep people secure. It's a major issue that hopefully the security community will address quickly. In my experience, many security programs just don't work as well or provide as comprehensive protection on a Mac as they do on Windows. Finding the best solution is like finding a needle in a haystack. The longer that takes, the worse it will be for Mac users.

6. Mac sales are on the rise

Security experts have said all along that the main reason Windows has been attacked so heavily over the years is the popularity of the platform. With millions of people around the globe running Windows computers every single minute, cyber-criminals enjoy a target-rich environment. Apple's low OS market share has caused the criminals to ignore it. But things are changing. Mac sales are on the rise, and a growing number of people are at least warming to the idea of using Apple's operating system. As more people opt for Macs, expect more cyber-criminals to focus their attention on Mac OS X.

7. Windows users know more about security than ever before

Though malicious hackers are still having little trouble breaking into unsecured Windows machines around the world, Microsoft has done a much better job over the years of informing the public of the dangers of not securing their machines. That factor has made it somewhat more difficult for hackers to find easy targets. Mac users, on the other hand, are not as prepared as they could be, which makes them easy pickings for cyber-criminals.

8. The criminals are happy with Apple's response

After the Mac Defender fake antivirus scam was first made public and issues started cropping up across the Mac ecosystem, it took Apple three weeks to finally get around to delivering a solution to the problem. Granted, it might have taken it that long to understand the issue and find a fix, but the response time is unacceptable. It shows a general lack of care on Apple's part. And for cyber-criminals, a general lack of care is a good thing. Apple must do a much better job of improving its response time to address future issues.

9. The criminals welcome Apple's cavalier attitude

One can say what they'd like about Apple's security policies over the years and the perception that security problems on the Mac never reached the heights of the problems on Windows computers. But it's hard to argue with the fact that Apple has been quite cavalier about security. Even the company's Mac OS X page says the operating system "doesn't get" viruses. Moreover, the company says that Mac OS X security requires "virtually no effort" from the user. These statements are troublesome, to say the least. And they have helped contribute to the generally unsafe nature of the Mac ecosystem.

10. Nothing is ever immune from security flaws

Regardless of whether or not Apple is doing a better job at protecting users than Microsoft, the reality is, there is no such thing as "immunity" in today's security world. Even the most militant security expert who uses all the latest tools to keep safe might fall victim to an exploit. So, it's important to realize that Mac OS X never was and never will be totally immune to threats. No one is safe. 

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