Are Mac Users Worried About Security? Our Survey-Takers Are…But Only a Little.

By  |  Monday, December 8, 2008 at 10:59 am

Verbatim comments from Technologizer’s Mac security survey:

“I don’t have a false sense of security–the hackers, phishers, botmasters and such are out there; however, I feel quite a bit safer on a Mac than a PC, and I have seen many of my PC-using friends switch for just that reason.”

“I’m slightly worried about the relative slowness with which Apple releases patches to Darwin or the BSD/GNU userland that are rapidly identified and fixed in the open source community. It’s also a bit of a worry that the increasing complexity of OSX will start to reveal cracks in its infrastructure. On the whole, I’m very happy with the Mac as platform.”

“I think the worst thing is the false sense of security people get when switching to the Mac. What we need is constant vigilance.”

“For me personally, the Mac advantage is not that important. It’s critical, however, when thinking of less sophisticated family members for whom I get very tired of playing sysadmin. This has also driven me to greater use of Linux.”

“I’ve used a Mac since 1985 (the fat Mac was my first Mac), and I’ve NEVER worried about security. I still believe Macs are inherently safer than Windows machines, and I think that Apple helps to make the Mac OS more secure with security patches.”

“What we as a Mac community need to do is engage the security community to elaborate on the real vs. perceived safety differences betweeen mac’s and pc’s. I am really tired of hearing that there are no viruses on macs because of less market share. This grates on me because of my belief (which I want the security community to elaborate and prove) that macs are architecturally superior and much more resistant to such attacks and the fact that we have no active viruses is unrelated to the fact that only 10-20% of use are using macs.”

“My only Mac virus experience was years ago in the Mac OS 8 era.”

“What I hear, time and time again, is that the biggest security vulnerability tends to exist between the keyboard and the chair. As long as users are aware of what not to do, most users will be fine.”

“I am technically a “security professional” and come to OS X from FreeBSD. My level of worry under OS X is not very high, but then again it wasn’t very high under Windows also since I believe one’s security posture mostly stems from a) how aware the user is of issues, and b) how valuable of a target they are. I do think however that OS X security model is less conducive to attacks than Windows’.”

“What worries me more than viruses are the malware that people voluntarily download and install because they don’t know any better. I don’t think there’s going to be a cure for that anytime soon.”

“You’re kidding yourself if you think the Mac is impervious to malware. By the same token, you’re kidding yourself if you think that the Mac is a sitting duck. I expect the Mac to see a few malware attacks, but I can’t say I’m really worried. I don’t use antivirus or any security software on my Macs, but then again I’m pretty careful about the sites I visit and the software I install. As always, vigilance is your friend.”

“Mac security is something that’s not a big issue to me. That doesn’t mean I’m not careful when I browse the web, and it’s not as though I’m opening attachments when I check email there. But it’s not a worry that’s at the front of my mind. I keep an anti-virus around just so that I have a tool to make sure I’m okay and give me peace of mind, but I don’t think I’m seriously at risk. I don’t want to sound like some kind of Mac chauvinist – I’m not. But I think that the signature radius, so to speak, of a Mac is a lot smaller than an equivalent Windows machine. It’s good for peace of mind, but not enough to say a machine is secure for real. As with anything else, it’s imprudent not to have an anti-virus and user habits are the first and most important security barrier.”

“Hackers haven’t targeted Mac OS X in the past because it was such a small player in the market. I’m concerned that will begin to change as market share for OS X climbs into double digits. I hope I’m wrong through because I hate the performance hit that antivirus software introduces.”

“I know that Macs are not 100% secure – no computer is. But, as I understand it, the basic structure (open-source, UNIX-based) is very secure, which makes an attack difficult. As well, and this isn’t often mentioned, the best tools for creating attacks are for Windows. By that I mean that, over the years when Windows was particularly vulnerable, the knowledge base of possible vectors for attack, and the programs that sniff for these vulnerabilities, grew quite “robust” (for want of a better term). This makes it “easier” to created attacks for Windows. As the Mac marketshare grows, it will become more of a target. But, without the same tools and depth of knowledge, attackers will still get better “bang for their buck” by attacking Windows. Of course, there’s nothing stopping someone from creating the same (kind of) tools for the Mac but, until someone does, and it gets coupled with even greater Mac marketshare, I think the Mac will continue to enjoy its current “very low risk” state.”

“Vista is a more robust OS against attacks. The OS X kernel has not be hardened against many forms of attack, and the user land utilities are generally more bug ridden. I’ve been working professionally as a security researcher for the last decade. I switched from Linux to Mac two years ago. The Mac is not as secure as many people believe, and I would really hope that Apple invests some time and money into hardening it.”

“I’ve heard that when Apple hits 15% market share, it will be profitable to start writing malware for the platform- I’m planning to get either NAV or Intego (probably the latter’s package of firewall and antivirus) I don’t like the new Leopard firewall controls, and have downloaded Waterroof.”



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5 Comments For This Post

  1. avro Says:

    There has been a lot of comment on this in the past week and most of it seems to fall into the Mac Market-Share MalWare Myth. The oft repeated Microsoft PR contention that Macs don’t suffer from MalWare because of the small percentage of computer users who have Macs. This has never been proven and as Macs become more popular we are not seeing more exploits. Macs are probably safer because of elevated permissions and architecture. The bad guys are trained in attacking Windows and many of these come from the old Eastern block. Mac architecture is unknown to them and unless Apple sets up a Mac U in Moscow it is likely to remain that way.

    Let’s stop all this FUD.

  2. mss Says:

    I agree that the Mac Market Share Myth is FUD. Our Macs used to get viruses BEFORE OS X. We’d run Nortan (Symantec) Anti-Virus and occasionally snag something. This was in the mid to late 1990’s when Mac market share was much lower than it is now. Nowadays, on OS X, I’ll occasionally run an anti-virus program. Nothing’s ever shown up.

  3. DAG Says:

    According to the Old Testament, when did Noah build the ark?
    Before the rains came and before the flood.

    One day there will be a significant and serious OS X exploit and those not ready will be bitten hard. The smug FanBois will not garner one iota of sympathy because of their arrogance and ignorance.

    Besides, Macs make good vectors for malware- the Typhoid Marys of the computer world.

  4. Partners in Grime Says:

    Considering there are no Mac OS X viruses in the wild, and what AV software does is check virus signatures, then there’s not much sense running Mac AV software at this time.

  5. avro Says:

    @ DAG

    The problem is the AV companies are always behind the curve. A new piece of MalWare comes out and they have no protection and by the time they do, it has been modified.

    Not so much building an Ark as building a Maginot Line, absolutely useless. The Bad guys just go round it and bite you on the backside.

    Your Typhoid Mary comment: Is it Mac Users’ fault if you decide to use an insecure OS? You have a choice. You could get a Mac.

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