Science Questions

Are mac's infected in the same way as PC's?

Sat, 1st Sep 2012

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Frank, Ipswich asked:

Are mac's infected in the same way as PC's?


Ross -   At the technical level, all operating systems are roughly as vulnerable as each other, but here, the economics come into play and that if you're a bad guy, you'd far rather write your malware for Windows because there's more than 10 times as many Windows machines as Mac’s.  So as a result, most of the malware out there is for Windows and Windows users are more vulnerable in practice.

Chris -   Although that trend is changing as more people do use more Macs for example.

Ross -   Well, as people move from laptops to smartphones, we’re seeing a rapid uptake in the amount of malware for android for example and we expect this to continue.


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I think that also, in the mind of some malicious hacker, Apple are somehow not regarded as "evil" as Microsoft.

As many of the viruses and Malware seem to get in via Java and Flash, I wonder if this is a reason for the growth in Malware getting on to non-microsoft media? To anyone that does not know this, it is a good idea to always keep these bits of software up-to-date as most of the "fixes" and "improvements" are related to counteracting security issues. graham.d, Wed, 5th Sep 2012

There are different types of "hacker attacks".
One would be exploiting code vulnerabilities.  Leaving backdoors & system accounts unlocked, forcing array overruns, and etc.  Some of this can be alleviated through greater quality control in the product design process. 
3rd party Plugins & DLLs...  even innocent ones can bring in elements beyond the developer's control.
User Error.  Users can do the most stupid things.  I.E. the ancient idea of a "Trojan Horse".  "Click here for ...".
The Macs may, in fact, have better quality control than the Windows systems which would reduce the code vulnerabilities.  The number of 3rd party plugins and DLLs installed may also be less, and have more rigorous quality testing by Apple than with Windows.

The final component is users just doing plain stupid things.  It is hard to get around this, but one thing that can be done is to design the OS so that it is more difficult for them to do it.

So, for example, sending executables by e-mail.  The OS should ring numerous alarms whenever one tries to run an executable from an E-mail. 

I think Windows is getting better at reminding users not to install plug-ins from explorer, or run executables from e-mail.  This may, however, have been easier to do with Windows than Macs in the past.  But, certainly Mac users are not immune from such attacks.  And, the more that is done automatically for a user without the user input, the more dangerous it becomes.

But, there are still huge vulnerabilities.  It is never clear how much gets read & automatically executed off of a memory stick, or a novel device when you insert it into a PC.  Anything? CliffordK, Wed, 5th Sep 2012

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