If you are considering the purchase of a Mac computer, then you may have heard about a common selling point for these machines: Macs are significantly more virus-proof than PCs. Whilst it’s true that 16 million PC households experienced issues with serious viruses as of 2012 (a problem that affected 40% of US households at a cost $4.55 billion to repair), buying a Mac does not guarantee that you will not fall victim to a virus, worm or other type of malware attack.
The misconception that Macs are practically invulnerable to malware has gained traction in the public consciousness over the years for several key reasons:
- Early Apple marketing campaigns stressed the idea that Macs were not at risk for being infected by PC viruses and were therefore the better buy. Though these campaigns have evolved to address Mac safety in general, the claim that Macs are virus-prone persists in the public space.
- The permissions structure of the Mac OS X UNIX system is designed to deter unauthorized programs, unlike the PC’s Microsoft Windows system, which runs programs more freely. Some Mac users theorize that OS X is impenetrable to any virus due to its solid construction.
- Because Mac’s market share is smaller than that of PC, some people argue that hackers who write malicious code are not interested in creating viruses that would affect a smaller number of computers overall. The belief is that virus writers want to do as much widespread damage as possible, so they focus on PC users.
Why Macs Are Becoming More Virus-Prone
Contrary to some of the most common Mac myths out there concerning the OS X system’s infallible resistance to viruses, there is a strong body of evidence that suggests Mac users aren’t more protected than their fellow PC users.
Though the Mac OS X includes several impressive security features, such as Gatekeeper, Application Firewall and XProtect, certain viruses can be written around this built-in protection. For instance, the Trojans collectively known as Mac Defender, a fake antivirus program, and Flashback, which affected more than 600,000 Mac computers, struck in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
A rise in popularity of iPhones has helped to increase Mac’s market share over the last several years, which in turn may encourage malware writers to target Apple devices with attacks.
Apple security systems are not as thorough as those of Microsoft because the latter is more experienced in dealing with viruses and threats on a large scale. Increases in Mac virus attacks may impair the ability of these security systems to contain widespread malware efficiently.
Protecting Your Mac or PC Against Viruses
Whether you own or wish to purchase either a Mac or PC, you can use various methods to strengthen your machine against viruses and other damaging attacks. Experts recommend that you:
- Never open emails or files from unknown sources and to monitor the URLs of the websites that you visit. Change email and website passwords frequently and use a mix of letters and numbers for increased security.
- Invest in security software, firewalls, antivirus scanners and virus protection programs. Mac users can opt to purchase programs such as Kaspersky, Intego or Agile, or they can choose free programs such as Sophos or ClamXav.
- Regularly run system scans in order to detect and quarantine any potential virus threats. It is also beneficial to update software whenever possible.
Author Bio: Marta Lopez is an Antivirus and Internet Security Specialist at Panda Security, one of the world’s leading creators and developers of anti-malware technology. You can connect with her on Twitter.