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Macs Are Not Immune to Viruses, and Are Increasingly Targeted

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Many folks got comfortable with their through the years using Macs as their devices of choice, in a large part due to the fact that they were far less targeted than Windows PC users. Mac users operated under the misconception that they didn’t need to take as many safety precautions as Windows users, and, as a result, became lax in their security diligence. This was actually only due to the fact that only around 5% of PC users were on Macs, traditionally. But, as more and more organizations have adopted Macs and OS X (and iOS) as their hardware and software systems of choice, Mac aficionados have discovered that they aren’t, in fact, immune to viruses, and have been hit by some “rather nasty malware and viruses attacking Macs” in recent years, according to Mark Williams, writing in

Macs Viruses

Spreading Viruses: Mac OS X vs. Windows

Let’s examine for a minute the “virus vector” as pertains to Windows vs. OS X-run devices. Viruses are always written for a specific platform, and one written for Windows can only run on a Windows machine. When we consider that the primary aim of a computer virus is to spread to as many other machines as possible (much like the common cold spreads through the population when we hit winter) cyber-attackers are going to target the platforms being used by the greatest number of people, which has classically been Windows PCs.

The “Security Through Minority” Effect

In IT circles, the phenomenon of the false sense of security felt by Apple Mac users became known as the “security through minority” effect. Up until very recently, criminals considered Macs a less attractive target because they accounted for far less of the market usage than Windows-run PCs. In 2011, the MacOS X accounted for barely more than five percent of the market share, compared to Windows XP’s 35 percent. (That figure has now grown to roughly 15% Macs in usage in 2016) Cyber thieves stayed away from Macs because there weren’t enough potential victims to make it worth their time. The fact is, Macs aren’t immune to viruses just the same way that those who live out in the country are at lower risk of being mugged until they go into the city – they’re just less exposed to the threat on a regular basis than city dwellers.

The truth is, intrinsically, Macs have far more “theoretical vulnerabilities than Windows machines,” according to a full-time security analyst for Microsoft writing in a 2011 InfoWorld article. The analyst, though, agrees with the thesis of the current article, saying, “However, Macs are attacked far less because they are used less than machines running Windows. Call it security through obscurity.” That’s a very 2011 statement in light of the recent spiking increase in the popularity of Macs in the enterprise – likely partly due to that very “security through minority” effect, which, ironically, is a fading illusion as Macs become increasingly targeted due to their being used much more prevalently these days.

Have Questions About Mac Security? 

If you have questions or concerns about Mac security as an enterprise owner, an IT security specialist with Caffeinated Computer Consulting can help you. Call (403) 775-7444 or email us at today for more information.

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