Do Macs and Linux get Viruses and Malware?

I often get asked do Macs get viruses like Windows?

Well the short answer is NO they do not.  Apple themselves say… “Mac OS X doesn’t get PC viruses. And its built-in defenses help keep you safe from other malware without the hassle of constant alerts and sweeps.”
Notice they say “PC viruses”, or let me put it this way, Macs do not get viruses that infect Windows computers.

With Windows being the majority of the computers on the internet, they are more susceptible to viruses and malware. Macs do not hold but 10% of the computing market so they are a smaller target and less susceptible to threats.

Think about this….in order for a virus to be effective, it has to be viral, it has to spread from machine to machine.
Imagine a cold or flu…if only one person had a cold in your town, how would the cold spread? It wouldn’t.
On windows with its exploits, its easy to have a virus become viral, again because there are more Windows computers out there on the internet than there are Apple and Linux computers.

Another reason is the way the operating system is built. With Windows, the core of it which is still based on the old Windows NT framework has lots of flaws that are exploited. Viruses will write themselves to the root of the operation system or to its system32 directory, and most of the time, every install of windows sets the user with full administrative control, so when you accidentally run a malicious program, it installs what it needs to without question, wherever it needs to, and has full admin rights to do so. This is also known as running as root.

The Mac however is a form of BSD Unix, a bigger brother to Linux. On most all Unix/Linux systems, no one runs as root. You operate the computer as a regular user and only elevate yourself when something needs elevated privileges to do so. You will be prompted to enter your password. What’s interesting to know about BSD and Linux is that the core is open source. This means that you can basically download the Source to BSD and compile your own operating system, and use it for free. This is essentially what Apple did. They took Darwin Unix and BSD derivative and made it their own and sold it.

Now you would think that with it being “open source” many virus writers would see what was there and be able to write code to specifically exploit the operating system, but it’s actually the opposite. People who try and protect machines from viruses and malware can contribute making it more secure, whereas at Microsoft, their core is only seen by their small group of people, so it’s harder for them to come up with ideas on how to prevent the malicious things out there on the net.

Another thing that makes Windows a lot less secure than the Mac, is Internet Explorer and its use of Active X. Active X basically embeds an application inside the web browser, and executes as the system user, so you can actually go to a site that has a malicious active x control embedded in it and instantly get infected. On Mac and Linux systems, this doesn’t exist.

The core of the Mac is a lot more secure than the core of Windows. This is debatable but true.

The 64-bit applications in Snow Leopard are even more secure from hackers and malware than the 32-bit versions. That’s because 64-bit applications can use more advanced security techniques to fend off malicious code. Yes you can get Microsoft Windows in 64 bit, but remember we are still facing core issues.

Also with the Mac, with virtually no effort on your part, Mac OS X offers a multi-layered system of defenses against viruses and other malicious applications, or malware. For example, it prevents hackers from harming your programs through a technique called “sand-boxing” — restricting what actions programs can perform on your Mac, what files they can access, and what other programs they can launch. Other automatic security features include Library Randomization, which prevents malicious commands from finding their targets, and Execute Disable, which protects the memory in your Mac from attacks.

So really it boils down to virus and malware writers do not want to waste their time writing for the Mac and Linux because for one, it’s a limited number of user base, and its harder to write for since the Mac uses randomization and there is no easily exploitable active x and internet explorer on these systems.

Some tips to help you avoid getting viruses and malware.

  • Download files only from known and trusted websites.
  • On the Mac, use FileVault to encrypt your most important documents.
  • Control access to your Mac by locking your screen after a period of inactivity.
  • Securely delete outdated sensitive files with the Secure Empty Trash command.
  • Don’t do anything stupid.

See the image below? It clearly states that its a Possible Phishing Site and gives you the option to leave!

I made the switch!

That’s right, I drank the kool-aid, I MADE THE SWITCH!

Usually when you hear “I MADE THE SWITCH” in the tech circle, it no doubt means you moved away from Microsoft Windows to something else like Mac OS/X or Ubuntu.

Well I did both. I got me an Apple iMac and I scrubbed my old Dell D810 laptop and put Ubuntu Linux on it. Unfortunately for my Media Center computer, I had to stick with Windows 7. I plan to blog about the complete media center setup later on, and tell you why I had to stick with Windows on that one.

At work as a IT Specialists, I have no choice but to use Microsoft Windows for the most part, but at home I had definitely had enough!

Why did I change? What was the final straw? For the most part I was sick and tired of having to bend over backwards making windows secure enough to use on a daily basis and not get attacked by malware.

What is malware you ask? Malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. It usually takes the shape of fake anti-virus software pretending to show you that your system is infected when in fact it is not, and trying to nag you into visiting a site where you can purchase their software and rid your computer of the virus that it pretends to find.

My wife had gotten infected with malware and I had to get it off, then 30 days later it happened again, then again. It also happened to me on my computer and I was using Firefox with lots of precautions in place and yet malware still got through to me. Then it happened on my laptop! Enough is Enough!

For years I had played with Linux and dabbled with many Apple operating systems before and this time I decided to just go ahead and dive head first into the world of Apple.

Let me first describe some of the pains that I have endured over the years with Windows.

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