By Harry McCracken | Monday, December 8, 2008 at 10:59 am
Last week, I got curious about whether Mac users spend any more time wrangling with security problems than in the past…or at least stressing about potential security risks. I decided to conduct a quick survey to get real feedback from real Mac users. The results (via the wonderful PollDaddy) are in, and for the most part they confirm what you might guess: Most respondents aren’t too concerned about security, don’t run much in the way of security software, and have never been attacked by viruses or spyware. Strong security is one reason why they choose the Mac over Windows. But they’re justifiably concerned that the growing percentage of computer users who use Macs could lead to more assaults by the bad guys.
First some disclaimers: We did no screening of survey respondents, so their take on things may or may not map to the Mac population at large. (For what it’s worth, some of the ones who expanded on their thoughts via our final, free-form question are clearly advanced users who are familiar with OS X’s Unix-based underpinnings.) 175 people took our survey–a small pool, but a statistically significant one. Bottom line: The opinions expressed below are those of the folks who chose to take the survey. (I think they’re interesting ones, and I thank everyone who took the time to participate.)
Full report after the jump…
We started with a pretty basic question: “Are Macs’ reputation for having fewer security issues than Windows PCs a major factor in your choice of the Mac platform?” For 50% of respondents, it’s a factor but not a gigantic one; for 27%, it is gigantic; and for 23% it isn’t a factor at all.
Next, we asked about which security-related issues nag at Mac users the most. The striking thing about the results was that the vast majority of respondents are not very worried or not worried at all about every type of attack we asked about. About ten percent are very or somewhat worried about viruses; about fifteen percent are very or somewhat worried about spyware. A larger minority–around thirty-five percent–said they were very or somewhat worried about spam and phishing attacks (which makes since, since these gremlins are largely platform-independent).
If there are vast hordes of Internet villains attacking Mac these days, they seem to have bypassed most of the folks who took our survey. Ninety-two percent of respondents told us they’d never experienced a virus or hacker attack on a Mac; 6 percent said they had. Only 2 percent said they weren’t sure. (In the Windows world, at least, it’s a dead certainty that there are lots of folks who have been attacked and don’t know it–even though their data has been stolen and/or their PC has been unwillingly enlisted into an army of evil bots.)
Only nineteen percent of respondents told us they were running anti-virus software on their Macs (if I’d guessed based on gut instinct, I might have gone for an even lower number, though). Eighty percent don’t use anti-virus protection.
Given that OS X includes a firewall, it’s no surprise that firewall protection is fairly high: 77 percent of respondents said they use OS X’s firewall or another one, versus eighteen percent who don’t. (We didn’t ask about hardware-based firewalls such as those built into routers, but it’s possible that most of that eighteen percent are relying on those firewalls to protect their Macs.)