1 in 5 Macs has malware... For Windows

Security firm Sophos announced Tuesday that data collected from 100,000 Mac computers revealed that 20% of those computers were carrying at least one instance of malware. The catch is that the 20% figure applies to malware designed to target Windows computers, but is harmless to Mac OS X.

Sophos's blog post went into more details. The data comes from a snapshot of the millions of Mac computers that downloaded Sophos's free anti-virus software. While the Windows malware stored on Mac computers won't affect Mac OS X installations, the malware could then be transmitted to Windows over computer networks.

The data in Sophos's study showed that 2.7 percent of Macs, or 1 in 36, were infected with actual OS X malware.

Sophos says that cybercriminals view Macs as "soft targets," because Mac users are less likely to be running anti-virus software. The study indicates that Macs are seven times more likely to harbor Windows malware than Mac OS X-targeted malware, but Sophos says that isn't an excuse for inaction. Much of the Windows malware found on Mac computers could be eradicated with a simple anti-virus scan, such as the one Sophos provides. As Sophos's study shows, cleaning your computer helps not just yourself, but other computer users near you as well.

Image Credit: Sophos.com

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39 Comments

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The difference between security on a Mac and security on a PC is when there's a security breach on a PC the antivirus software blocks it or at least informs you. On a Mac you have to wait three weeks to read about it in the papers.

FROM NEOWIN: Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky has some harsh words for Apple when it comes to security. At the Info Security 2012 conference, Kaspersky told CBR that Apple is “ten years behind Microsoft in terms of security.”

Mac users have little or no social responsibility when it comes to spreading viruses. Maybe they should change the name from Macintosh to Maclamydia?

Major Plonquer said,
The difference between security on a Mac and security on a PC is when there's a security breach on a PC the antivirus software blocks it or at least informs you. On a Mac you have to wait three weeks to read about it in the papers.

Unless it's a 0-day threat and your antivirus software misses it, right? Which is what happens most of the times. Seen countless infected Windows computers running some AV. On a Mac running an AV, you won't have to wait 3 weeks, the AV will block it provided it can detect it, just like on Windows. Malware for Mac doesn't spread from one computer to another (at least the recent examples), unlike Windows malware, so your comments about social responsibility show your ignorance.

And this is another reason Macs are not welcomed with open arms into corporate environments. When a employee asks to bring their Mac or iPad into a corporate network, they should be told NO.

A Windows PC, owned by and employee, can have a side installation or conform to AD server policies and scripts depending on the level of security the company needs, and ensure that the device is being scanned or not allowed into the network, and be forced updates if the user turned them off and 1000s of other centralized and automated management that you just can't easily do on OS X.

OS X is like Rats during the Black Plague... (And yes some of the Rats will get sick and die too, but while Windows users are becoming malware free, the Rats are still carry the diseases running around with simple minded ignorance killing others.)

Beaux said,
This shows the stupidity of Mac users, if that many of them have behavior that gets them this malware.

Windows users get this malware too.

"Security firm Sophos announced Tuesday that data collected from 100,000 Mac computers..." What macs, where macs, really? How do they sample these macs? How many macs have sophos software on them...
Yet another SophosCrap airs again!

Nikos_GR said,
"Security firm Sophos announced Tuesday that data collected from 100,000 Mac computers..." What macs, where macs, really? How do they sample these macs? How many macs have sophos software on them...
Yet another SophosCrap airs again!

They sample them through their free Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac product (which must be ran manually). They use the stats to scare people into buying the full version.

cycro said,
Wonder how many of the malware samples are actually keygens, often detected by AV software as "malware".

I dont know if this is legit, but I think they just say its malware in order to stop ppl using it. Not sure if this is true or not, if it is I'm sure the stats wouldn't reflect such false details.

Also malware and virus/malicous app are different. Usually these days a keygen will be identified as a Malicious app, not a lie but not exactly true!

Quite often a keygen is detected as Trojan/[some index], probably because of the file packing techniques used by crackers to protect their work (ironic, I know). The fact is that many programs which are available for both PC and Mac have keygens made for the PC version which also work on the Mac version. The AV software would detect those, and since the announcement says "malware", not "viri" or "trojans", that could actually be a substantial number of the cases. There is very little chance that a Mac user would get a malware EXE file and keep it on their hard drive on purpose, while it's not possible to get it by accident, because Macs really don't get PC malware (windows executables) by design. Coming from an AV vendor, it's not hard to guess what's the purpose of such an announcement.

So does that mean if a PC connects to a mac and accesses those files, the PC will get infected? Most Mac people dont have AV on their systems to scan for mac related issues let alone Windows. So it would be logical to assume those files are still harmful if access from a PC. Some Macs are just the carriers of the disease.

techbeck said,
So does that mean if a PC connects to a mac and accesses those files, the PC will get infected? Most Mac people dont have AV on their systems to scan for mac related issues let alone Windows. So it would be logical to assume those files are still harmful if access from a PC. Some Macs are just the carriers of the disease.

So short answer is yes, although a mac may be immune to a windows virus, it can still carry it. However the fun thing is it goes both ways. A windows computer could theoretically carry a mac virus that could be run and infect a mac connecting to a windows computer. Of course, generally they will not because most mac viruses in the wild I am aware of use a browser exploit and would detect that the windows user is not using a mac.

techbeck said,
So does that mean if a PC connects to a mac and accesses those files, the PC will get infected? Most Mac people dont have AV on their systems to scan for mac related issues let alone Windows. So it would be logical to assume those files are still harmful if access from a PC. Some Macs are just the carriers of the disease.

YES! They should change its name to Maclamydia. Dirty.

Jerid said,
Using a Mac is like wearing a condom but you still get most of the pleasure.

Didn't you know? Apple partnered up with Durex to create the Ultra Thin condoms.

Open Minded said,
I have a Mac, they don't get viruses... but it sure does give em!

Exactly what I was thinking! Almost seems like that's Mac virus writers would WANT to do initially. Get more people freaking out over what OS's get infected and stuff. THEN they can start concentrating on what OS's to REALLY infect internally.

xXgreatestever said,

Can anybody vouch for Sophos Anti-Virus over Avira? I'm using Avira right now but not into the Mac scene until just recently

Personally,
I'd take Avira over Sophos anyday! That DOES NOT mean Sophos isn't any good though. More experience with Avira mainly.

Shouldn't the title be "1 in 5 Macs HAVE malware"?

I'm seriously curious about that. Since "Macs" is plural, and the verb is referring to "Macs" and not one the "1", I'm pretty sure it should be have.

andrewbares said,
Shouldn't the title be "1 in 5 Macs HAVE malware"?

I'm seriously curious about that. Since "Macs" is plural, and the verb is referring to "Macs" and not one the "1", I'm pretty sure it should be have.

I'll have to do some reading on this one, but I do believe the verb should agree with the 1 and not the 5. Similar scenario is the sentence "One of the 5 apples is rotten." The verb agrees with the one apple that's rotten. It sounds odd because often in statistics like these, it's usually 2+ out of whatever number, then the verb agrees with a plural subject.

Rosyna said,
The malware is from spam. Usually from infected Windows computers in bot nets. Sophos is just trying to scare Mac users into buying their anti-virus by using FUD. That a useless data file in the spam folder is somehow an infection or can be spread to others. http://www.sophos.com/en-us/pr...-home-edition/features.aspx

But it's just a file that sits in the spam folders.

First of all, Sophos Anti-Virus for the MAC is FREE. Second, Sophos is an excellent defender against Viruses and Malware. I know because we run it at work, and Sophos will costumize their AV for their customers as well.

In my experience with Sophos, I have been involved in dealing and submitting a couple of viruses / malware to Sophos, and within a few hours, they have a virus definition ready for our IT Security Team to be deployed to over thousands of machines all over the world.

RommelS said,

First of all, Sophos Anti-Virus for the MAC is FREE. Second, Sophos is an excellent defender against Viruses and Malware. I know because we run it at work, and Sophos will costumize their AV for their customers as well.

In my experience with Sophos, I have been involved in dealing and submitting a couple of viruses / malware to Sophos, and within a few hours, they have a virus definition ready for our IT Security Team to be deployed to over thousands of machines all over the world.

Can anybody vouch for Sophos Anti-Virus over Avira? I'm using Avira right now but not into the Mac scene until just recently

Rosyna said,
The malware is from spam. Usually from infected Windows computers in bot nets.

You Sir, do not know what malware is. It can come from drive-by surfing websites. There was a time you could get it from searching for pictures with Google, and one of the pictures was infected, you can get it from targeted attacks, you can get it from an idiot friend who forwards stupid emails without paying attention and you then follow the links in the email to compromised servers, etc...

I also use and manage Sophos at work with several thousand of machines and never had any issues. If we report something new to Sophos, it takes only a couple of hours until the signature files are updated with the new detection. Their support is quick and efficient. That's my experience with them.

Odom said,

You Sir, do not know what malware is. It can come from drive-by surfing websites. There was a time you could get it from searching for pictures with Google, and one of the pictures was infected, you can get it from targeted attacks, you can get it from an idiot friend who forwards stupid emails without paying attention and you then follow the links in the email to compromised servers, etc...

I also use and manage Sophos at work with several thousand of machines and never had any issues. If we report something new to Sophos, it takes only a couple of hours until the signature files are updated with the new detection. Their support is quick and efficient. That's my experience with them.

I'd be interested in seeing an article about this virus/malware that is spread merely by viewing an image.

RommelS said,

First of all, Sophos Anti-Virus for the MAC is FREE. Second, Sophos is an excellent defender against Viruses and Malware. I know because we run it at work, and Sophos will costumize their AV for their customers as well.

The free version is just used to collect stats Sophos can use to sell copies of the real product. The free version does not do automatic scanning.

MrXXIV said,
Is this a good reason to say why I run Windows on Macs?

That's not the point. Windows run on Boot Camp or any virtualization platform on Mac is as succeptible as Windows on a PC.