Mac Defender crashes Apple security myth

Believing the Apple hype on security is causing Mac users to fall prey to malware and phishing attacks.

Mac Defender is turning out to be somewhat of an epidemic that neither Apple, nor Mac users seem prepared for. The Mac malware has caught the Apple ecosystem off guard and threatens to shatter the reality distortion field that Apple thrives on.

Apple, and the Apple faithful would like to pretend that Mac malware doesn't exist. But, thanks to some awesome investigative reporting by Ed Bott, Jacqui Cheng, and others, we know that AppleCare technicians are seeing an explosion of malware issues, and that Apple has specifically directed support technicians not to get involved.

Cheng points out that there is at least tacit acceptance by Apple that the possibility for malware exists because Apple actually sells multiple malware protection products. And, although Apple Store reps are quick to point out the superior security and lack of malware concerns on the Mac, internally Apple mandates the use of Norton malware protection.

A certain Apple loyalist recently called me -- and a variety of respected tech writers -- out for having the audacity to point out that Mac OS X is not invulnerable and that the potential for Mac malware is steadily rising. Really, I think Gruber was just being lazy that day because his contribution amounts to a single word, and the rest of the article is just a copy and paste of other content like mine.

I get it. Apple products are better. They are magic. They just work. Except when they're not, and they don't. If you look past the smoke and mirrors, you might be disappointed to find out that they're not really that different.

To be fair, I agree that there are fundamental aspects of the OS itself that make Mac OS X more secure, or harder to exploit to some extent. However, I still maintain that the real reason that Macs aren't plagued by more malware is that the platform represents such negligible market share that it's not worth the effort for malware developers.

Ultimately, though, more secure is a long, long way from completely secure or invulnerable. But, many think that Macs are just secure. Period. Mac users who have partaken of that Koolaid and developed some sort of belief that they are impervious to attack by virtue of using a Mac are learning in droves that reality falls short of the myth.

Malware is not the only concern. Many of the biggest threats online are simple phishing attacks and identity theft that are platform agnostic and have nothing to do with the security of the OS. But, the fallacy that Macs are just secure causes users to be naive about security in general. It is time for Mac users to take off the Apple colored glasses and realize that security is a concern.

Don't get me wrong. I like Apple (except for the abomination called iTunes). I love my iPhone and my iPad, and I am seriously considering a MacBook Air. But, I am not naive enough to believe they are secure by default. The false sense of security that comes from believing the Apple hype does users a disservice and leads them to get caught with their proverbial pants down when it comes to the various threats online.

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Tags securitymalwareAppleoperating systemssoftwareMac OS XMac OS

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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