Why Don’t Macs Get Viruses?

You’ve probably found this article because you’re either interested in tech, or you’re tired of your bulky anti-virus program hogging up your valuable resources on Windows and you’re considering a “virus-free” Mac. You may have been bitten by a nasty trojan or destructive virus in the past. To you, I say the notion that Macs don’t get viruses is only partially based on facts.

First, the Mac has been hit with viruses before. Users who downloaded pirated versions of iWork 09 were sometimes met with a nasty bit of code called iServices.A. This nasty piece of malware had unfettered access to the root of any Mac where it was installed. With this access, it connected systems to a botnet that could be used in DOS (Denial of Service) attacks against the botnet operator’s targets.

In 2007, a trojan horse (OSX.RSPlug.A) made the rounds on porn sites by tricking users in to installing it by claiming it was a required codec to watch videos embedded on the site. This trojan worked by changing the user’s DNS settings in a way that pointed them to malicious phishing sites that look and act a lot like genuine sites such as those hosted by banks and other online services. By doing so, they effectively steal your login information and gain access to whatever account it is you’re logging into.

Because the Mac has a relatively small amount of users compared to Windows, it is less of a target to those that look to exploit vulnerabilities. This doesn’t mean that Macs are “immune” or “impervious” to viruses. To the contrary, they’re just as vulnerable as Windows machines. The advantage Mac users have in their favor is that they’re a smaller target, especially to the kind of people that exploit these vulnerabilities. They want to capture the largest amount of systems in the fastest possible time.

Does this mean you have to use an anti-virus program with your Mac to stay safe? Not exactly. If you follow some basic rules of thumb when surfing the Web, you should be fine. The same can be said for users of Windows and Linux operating systems. Here are some tips to help keep you virus-free:

  • Don’t follow links that contain IP addresses instead of domain names.
  • Don’t download anything from a site unless you absolutely know and trust it.
  • Don’t open email with attachments unless you know the sender and you know what and why they’re sending it.
  • Don’t download pirated software, music, or movies.
  • Don’t download or install “codecs” to watch videos on sites. If you have Flash, Silverlight, and VLC, you should be covered.

Don’t let this dissuade you from buying a Mac. The very nature of software includes the potential for vulnerabilities and Apple is very good about keeping its software updated. Computers that run Windows get a bad rap for viruses, especially from the Mac crowd, but as Macs become more popular, the potential for malicious software developers to turn their attention to Apple’s computers increases.

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.