For years one major advantage of owning a Mac was that these machines were less likely to be targeted by hackers. However, a new report suggests that Mac users who dismiss the idea of protecting their system with anti-virus software could actually be carrying bugs that can be transmitted to friends and family using Windows-based PCs.
The reason Macs don’t get infected is simple: there just aren’t that many out there, meaning there’s less incentive for cyber crooks to devise viruses and malware software targeting them. Unfortunately, new research suggests that Windows malware can still infect an Apple machine and even if it does nothing to a Mac it can be transmitted by USB drive, email attachment or website download to a Windows user.
The report comes to us from security company Sophos, which says it tested about 100,000 Macs and found that approximately one in five — or 20 per cent — were infected with Windows malware. Only about 2.7 per cent, or 1 in 37, were infected with Mac OS X malware that could have a visible impact on a host system’s performance.
Sophos analyst Graham Cluley insists that this is an alarming finding. “Although Windows malware on Macs won’t cause symptoms (unless users also run Windows on their computer), it can still be spread to others,” Cluley said.
In fact, Cluley suggests that both Mac and Windows users should think of this problem as if it were a nasty sexually transmittable disease, like Chlamydia. “Just like malware on your computer, Chlamydia commonly shows no obvious symptoms. But left undetected Chlamydia can caused serious problems, such as infertility,” he noted in a recent blog post.
Scary when put that way, no?
In all likelihood, the report is unlikely to encourage Mac users to purchase anti-virus software. However, security experts insist that even that 2.7 per cent Mac OS X infection finding should be considered alarming by Mac users.
Because the malware found included the Flashback virus (which re-directs Internet traffic) and the DNSChanger bug, which if left untreated could eventually lead to a user losing his or her Internet connection.
Given these findings, experts suggest Mac users take security a little more seriously and check out software like Intego’s VirusBarrier X6.