With all the talk about Mac OS X Snow Leopard not being as secure as Windows 7, why are there no Mac viruses? Philip Elmer-Dewitt in Fortune:
A Mac OS X virus in the wild, to use the definition put forward in a short-lived contest that offered $25,000 to the first hacker who could write one, is executable code that attaches itself to a program or file so that it can spread from one Mac to another. “In the wild” means it has infected, or is currently infecting, new machines through normal day-to-day usage. By this definition, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of PC viruses (see partial list), a handful of Mac OS 9 viruses, and not one for Mac OS X.
And the reason for that is, “Why?” This is the endless debate. Let’s put an end to it.
- Small market share. There is some truth to the “security through obscurity” argument. Many virus writers are motivated by the power they can command — and the money they can make — by seizing control of large numbers of computers.
- Mac OS X, with its Unix-based file system and kernel, is harder to infect with a self-replicating program. Windows… allows users to write run executable code outside their own protected memory space; Mac OS X does not.
- Viruses are going out of style. The action these days, I’m told, is in Trojans and spyware.
#1 is ludicrous, illogical, unreasonable, and a myth. #2 is the main reason, of course, and #3 is merely a trend. Hackers recognize there’s no money in viruses, but spyware and Trojans have a money trail.
Check my primer on malware definitions; viruses, worms, Trojans, et al. That said, is my Mac safe and secure?
This is not to say that OS X is invulnerable. The frequency of Apple’s security updates and the emphasis the company is putting on the new security features in Snow Leopard are proof that it is not. Maybe Apple is just lucky. Or maybe it’s better at protecting its users from infection than Microsoft.
Here’s the deal. It’s not luck. Historically, Mac OS X has been more secure from the typical virus than Windows. Phishing is different because the threat still requires user intervention and initiation. Ditto for Trojans. But viruses and worms in the wild? Name one for Mac OS X?
A Mac is probably more safe and secure against intrusions than against users.