Apple decides that Macs aren't immune to viruses

In the wake of high profile attacks like Flashback, and allegations that they are '10 years behind Microsoft' in terms of security, Apple has decided that it might not be the best idea to say that Macs don't get viruses. With that in mind, Apple changed a description on its website from 'It doesn't get PC viruses,' to 'It's built to be safe.'

Once upon a time, Apple's 'Why you'll love a Mac' page said that Macs weren't susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers, which is technically true. But even though Macs aren't vulnerable to Windows viruses, it's still possible to build viruses and malware for a Mac. Basically, that's like Microsoft pointing out that Windows doesn't get Mac viruses.

You can take a good look at the changes for yourself over at Sophos. While Apple still touts the same security features, they're a little bit more cautious about promising total immunity.

Meanwhile, Apple is working to improve the security of OS X with Mountain Lion, which give users the options of using Gatekeeper, which prevents users from installing non-screened software and encases them in an iOS-style 'walled garden.' Of course, you can always override Gatekeeper, or just disable it entirely.

And to be fair, there's no arguing that there are way fewer viruses for the Mac than there are for Windows. Of course, whether that has anything to do with Apple's security features, or just the Mac's much smaller market share, is open to interpretation. That much is obvious from the splash that Flashback managed to make.

Source: International Business Times | Sophos

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51 Comments

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tuneslover said,
So they actually lied to million of people?
No they just used clever marketting. They never said they were immune to viruses. They said they were immune to "PC viruses" which in context means "Windows viruses."

Just wanted to say, I laughed out loud when I read "Reality Distortion Field", nice touch.

As for my PC, never had a virus on it since I first built one in the 90s and I didn't use a virus checker for most of the time. In fact it wasn't until this year that I finally decided to install one that I found less annoying. A little common sense goes a long way to avoiding viruses.

I dual boot my MacBook Air with Windows 7 and Lion... I guess that means I am a target of both depending on how I am logged in for the day...

Mac's 'were' more secure, back when you had to admin login to complete an install while windows XP just ran it regardless.

srbeen said,
Mac's 'were' more secure, back when you had to admin login to complete an install while windows XP just ran it regardless.

AFAIK I could never install an application when I was using a non-administration account

Jose_49 said,

AFAIK I could never install an application when I was using a non-administration account

Standard (non-admin) accounts on Windows XP were super locked down.

rfirth said,

Standard (non-admin) accounts on Windows XP were super locked down.


And how many people do you know ran their commuter as a standard user at home?

srbeen said,
Mac's 'were' more secure, back when you had to admin login to complete an install while windows XP just ran it regardless.

You do mean when WindowsXP allowed average users to set themselves up as Administrators, which was even a shift for Windows NT, as users were previously encouraged to be just 'Users' and when software required to modify/install it would have to done via the Run As... Administrator account.

NT was always secure, but WindowsXP to be 'compatible' with people and software moving from the Win9x era of no security, it setup users as Administrators and allowed them to be Administrators too easily. It was a REALLY bad choice on Microsoft' behalf to choose compatibility instead of security.

thenetavenger said,

You do mean when WindowsXP allowed average users to set themselves up as Administrators, which was even a shift for Windows NT, as users were previously encouraged to be just 'Users' and when software required to modify/install it would have to done via the Run As... Administrator account.

NT was always secure, but WindowsXP to be 'compatible' with people and software moving from the Win9x era of no security, it setup users as Administrators and allowed them to be Administrators too easily. It was a REALLY bad choice on Microsoft' behalf to choose compatibility instead of security.


What always confused me during that era is the choice for OEM's to install an admin account when first booting up at home while leaving a hidden admin account in the background hidden with no password. Was always fun using it in safe mode to bypass a friends account password though

Built to be safe is more of a lie because they are having to ask an anti-virus program developer for help and they said in reply that the OS is very weak in terms of security.

Their tagline should be, It's safer when your a smaller target.

Gaffney said,
Their tagline should be, It's safer when your a smaller target.

And that's the truth. Pretty silly that some Apple fans actually believe that Mac's are actually more secure.

matejs said,
Congratulations... It took them, what, over 10 years to admit it?

They weren't particularly denying that Macs were immune to any viruses, just Windows ones. It's a silly distinction at first glance, but important in terms of marketing as they're able to claim to not be susceptible to Windows malware that still outnumbers Mac malware (for various reasons).

Regardless of Apple's marketing tactics, it's good to see that they're actually doing something about security issues rather than just bad-mouthing the competition.

tiagosilva29 said,

MenuetOS

A quick Google search says that at least 2 viruses have been written for that obscure operating system...

Chica Ami said,
No OS is immune to viruses not even Linux.

Funny that you 'qualify' this by using the most Virus prove OS in widespread use. (Yes, right now, Linux malware and rooted Linux desktops and servers are more common than rooted Windows desktops on percentage and servers in pure numbers in use.)

thenetavenger said,

Funny that you 'qualify' this by using the most Virus prove OS in widespread use. (Yes, right now, Linux malware and rooted Linux desktops and servers are more common than rooted Windows desktops on percentage and servers in pure numbers in use.)

Citation Needed. Not saying you're lying, but I've seen nothing that states Linux virus infections being anything more than minimal.

Majesticmerc said,

Citation Needed. Not saying you're lying, but I've seen nothing that states Linux virus infections being anything more than minimal.


Erm how about those many thousands, millions of apache servers used by Anonymous?
Windows servers, if updated properly. are secure as a rock. Last time someone took one in a datacenter I work is many years ago (altho I haven't worked there for a year and a half) and in the same time, quite a few Linux servers where 'compromised'

Shadowzz said,

Erm how about those many thousands, millions of apache servers used by Anonymous?

Again, citation needed. Throwing BS numbers around doesn't make them any more valid.

Shadowzz said,

Windows servers, if updated properly. are secure as a rock. Last time someone took one in a datacenter I work is many years ago (altho I haven't worked there for a year and a half) and in the same time, quite a few Linux servers where 'compromised'

How is it any different from Linux? Linux servers that aren't properly secured or updated are a security liability, just as much as Windows servers are. But again, this comes down to the PEBCAK issue, not a fundamental flaw in the OS. If you don't secure your server against attacks, you're going to have a bad time, regardless of the OS.

Linux exploits aren't necessarily more common than any other OS (most OS's are pretty secure now), but Linux is more likely to be a victim of those exploits because of it's popularity (i.e. more effort put into attacks because of the greater reward opportunities). This same idea applies to Windows on the Desktop, and Android on mobiles.

I'm not trying to say you're wrong, but unless you can prove some numbers, then you're just peddling FUD.

AWilliams87 said,
Well it use to say Macs don't get "PC viruses", which is true.

PC = Personal Computer
Macs are PCs if they are used for personal use.
The term "PC" is just used by people who are lazy about saying what OS they have.
Hence, Apple has been lying for a while now (What a shocker!).
Apple sucks

hilmart said,

PC = Personal Computer
Macs are PCs if they are used for personal use.
The term "PC" is just used by people who are lazy about saying what OS they have.
Hence, Apple has been lying for a while now (What a shocker!).
Apple sucks


eh, it's understood by most people that when someone (especially Apple ) refers to a "PC" they're talking about Windows (though technically, yes, you're correct)

Correct. PC = Personal Computer, and all of that jazz, but for the past 6 or so years, they have been marketed by both Apple and Microsoft as...

Mac = Computers made by Apple.
PC = Computers running Windows.

So Microsoft is also a liar that sucks.

AWilliams87 said,
Well it use to say Macs don't get "PC viruses", which is true.

I've seen TV ads with just "It doesn't get viruses"

omgben said,
Correct. PC = Personal Computer, and all of that jazz, but for the past 6 or so years, they have been marketed by both Apple and Microsoft as...

Mac = Computers made by Apple.
PC = Computers running Windows.

So Microsoft is also a liar that sucks.

What are Computers running Linux then?

technically....

windows /linux = IBM compatible PC or Wintel
mac = apple

omgben said,
Correct. PC = Personal Computer, and all of that jazz, but for the past 6 or so years, they have been marketed by both Apple and Microsoft as...

Mac = Computers made by Apple.
PC = Computers running Windows.

So Microsoft is also a liar that sucks.

omgben said,
Correct. PC = Personal Computer, and all of that jazz, but for the past 6 or so years, they have been marketed by both Apple and Microsoft as...

Mac = Computers made by Apple.
PC = Computers running Windows.

So Microsoft is also a liar that sucks.

I have a PC running Linux, I have a PC running OS/2... I have a PC running Windows, I have a PC running Unix, yeah, those PC's must all be running windows! thanks Apple for ruining a generic term!

oliver182 said,

Wish I could, they were aired here in Mexico


As far as I know, Apple never had "Get a Mac" adverts that were specific for Mexico. Feel free to get back to me when/if you find proof of your original claim though.

AWilliams87 said,
Well it use to say Macs don't get "PC viruses", which is true.

Yes, it was obviously true. However, it's still false advertising because they were intentionally misleading customers by qualifying the statement with language that doesn't mean what most people thought it meant. They wanted people to think Macs were immune from viruses. Add in the fact that application of the term "PC" is debatable, and Apple's equivocation was really inexcusable.

Good job Apple, thanks for fixing this equivocation mess. Apple could have easily lost a lawsuit if somebody sued over Flashback.

xankazo said,
What are Computers running Linux then?

For all intents and purposes the term 'PC' refers to a computer running Windows; people can argue semantics but that is common usage. If you were running Linux it would be a 'Linux PC' or 'Linux computer'. An analogy would be that Linux is like an SUV - technically an SUV is a car but that is not common usage, nor is it accurate.

Apple wasn't responsible for the term 'PC' becoming synonymous with Windows; Microsoft was.

Manish said,

As far as I know, Apple never had "Get a Mac" adverts that were specific for Mexico. Feel free to get back to me when/if you find proof of your original claim though.

Soo all our ads are in english then? right.. well I couldn't find the ads so I'll leave there..

Manish said,

Could you provide a link to those particular ads?

I think the ad above he is talking about is this one Which was a US ad.

00:20 or so mark..

which it clearly says " PC GUY says {There are 1,014 known viruses for Pc's} MAC GUY SAY { but not Mac's}"

Which that statement is true.
It is immune to viruses that target Windows based machines.

oliver182 said,

Soo all our ads are in english then?


No, you just failed to understand what I was saying.

Irrespective of the language that those particular adverts aired in, they only had specific campaigns for North America, UK and Japan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_a_Mac) It shouldn't be that difficult to find the equivalent advert in English that features Apple stating - "It doesn't get viruses".

redvamp128 said,

I think the ad above he is talking about is this one Which was a US ad.
...
It is immune to viruses that target Windows based machines.


No, he has apparently seen an advert in which they state that they get no viruses at all, as implied by his original comment.

theyarecomingforyou said,

For all intents and purposes the term 'PC' refers to a computer running Windows;

Wrong, if anything PC refers to the heritage of being a IBM PC clone!

BTW: Apple is also selling PCs, ever since the Intel transition they're just IBM PC clones...

MFH said,

Wrong, if anything PC refers to the heritage of being a IBM PC clone!

BTW: Apple is also selling PCs, ever since the Intel transition they're just IBM PC clones...

PC = Personal Computer

I used to own an IBM AT and XT

The term "clone" didn't come out until the IBM PC Jr era and go ahead and argue me about that one-- I lived the history......

walled gardin is an upper class sandbox? :-D

on the other hand, this is a good thing... more aware people means less idiots - and for those you still got the built-in security

Wow you are still stuck in the RDF. They have been doing the wrong thing for so long and then they finally stop doing it you congratulate them! Maybe they shouldn't have ever done it or taken so long to change when viruses in the wild started coming out for Mac, then a Congratulations might have been in order. Their whole response to viruses has been dismal.

Simon- said,
Wow you are still stuck in the RDF. They have been doing the wrong thing for so long and then they finally stop doing it you congratulate them! Maybe they shouldn't have ever done it or taken so long to change when viruses in the wild started coming out for Mac, then a Congratulations might have been in order. Their whole response to viruses has been dismal.

Take it easy bro it is a funny topic you know: "Apple decides that Macs aren't immune to viruses"

Simon- said,
Wow you are still stuck in the RDF. They have been doing the wrong thing for so long and then they finally stop doing it you congratulate them! Maybe they shouldn't have ever done it or taken so long to change when viruses in the wild started coming out for Mac, then a Congratulations might have been in order. Their whole response to viruses has been dismal.

Take it easy bro it is a funny topic you know: "Apple decides that Macs aren't immune to viruses"