Your Mac Has a Virus

by James R. Stoup Aug 26, 2005

What will you do the first time you read that sentence? Scream in terror? Pass out in fright? Cry yourself to sleep at the sheer inhumanity of it all? What? And all Mac users must prepare for that day because it will happen eventually. Yes, even a die hard, frothing at the mouth Mac head like myself can admit that the chances of OS X never getting infected with a virus, in the long run, are kind of slim. It may not happen today, it may not happentomorrow (or even 10 years from now) but assuming it does happen what will the Mac community do? Every other major operating system out there has had its share of viruses except OS X. Now, that is due in large part to its Unix underpinnings and the very talented programmers who work in Cupertino. But every party has to end eventually. . .

So, assuming someone managed to actually write a virus for OS X, what would you do? Buy a virus checker from Norton or McAffe? Or would you rather have Apple release its own virus/malware protection software? (kind of like Microsoft is doing now) Perhaps you would just chalk it up to “one of those things” and do nothing differently? And what about everyone else, how will they react?

Can you imagine Jobs standing up in front of everyone at a Mac Expo and saying “ladies and gentlemen, they finally did it. the score is now 693,902 Windows viruses to 1 Apple virus.” No, I don’t really see that happening either. Oh, and let me be clear that when I say a virus, I don’t mean a proof of a virus, I don’t mean a script, developer tool, root kit or anything else. I am talking about an actual computer virus, that’s the only thing that counts.

Whatever the IT related damage it does that will be nothing compared to the physiological and marketing fallout that will occur. It will certainly put a dent in the pride of your average Mac fanatic. Likewise the marketing arm over at Apple will have to change things to “almost” perfect. Anyway, I don’t see this happening anytime soon but I suppose, like death and taxes, it is inevitable.


  • I’ll say it’ll happen on the say OS-X gets a solid foothold in the OS market. Guess you guys can’t have it both ways.

    And I would take a “proof of concept” virus as an actual. You guys generally accepted that Monad script “proof” as a virus didn’t you? like I said, can’t have it both ways.

    And finally, IMO, windows viruses are way too hyped up, at least for end consumers. I’ve never had a problem with them, and I admit, I partake in a lot more ‘high risk’ activity than the average user. I have no idea how people get all these viruses. Then again, some of us PC users are just retarded:

    makken had this to say on Aug 26, 2005 Posts: 21
  • Makken, that is exactly how it happens - not knowing what you’re doing. Think about how many people have computers but have little or no idea what they’re doing with them. They know how to turn it on and they can type in a URL in Internet Explorer and check their Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail (Gmail? What’s that?). Other than that… Do they know how to check how full their hard drive is? Do they know how much RAM they have? Do they know, in either Windows or OS X, how to do DOS/Terminal commands? Do they know what background processes run on their computer at odd ends of the day? Do they even know what a virus, typically, actually is?

    I like to think most of the Mac users I know are better informed than most of the Windows users I’ve met. I know people who work on a Windows PC 5 days a week in the office they work in and still barely know what they’re doing. As has been mentioned in other articles here, the right-clicking thing eludes just about everyone, which is sad because contextual menus add so much, in my opinion, to the computer using experience.

    But, I have a biased view on how much people should get to know about their Mac/Windows/Linux box. I’ve been using computers since I was about 7, starting with an Apple II, jumpiing around between old Apples (pre Mac!), a 386-based IBM running DOS, a few Amigas, and a large variety of Macs. I’ve messed a little with Linux-based machines in the last few years, so… While I most certainly don’t know everything, I like to think I’m pretty competant with computers, if for no other reason than that if I don’t know how to do something, I ask someone or research it.

    As a Mac die-hard, what would I do about a virus? Smile. For some maniacal reason I would be happy. And I’m talking avbout a big virus, one that screws over entire office buildings’ networks. Oh, but I guess Apple would have to break into the IT/Enterprise market for that to happen. Heehee. Home users, if they’d bother to get educated, would be virtually immune to any viruses.

    It’s funny, actually… Going back to Windows and people’s knowledge of it… I know people that’ve only ever used Windows, and they know a decent amount about it, and their computers are rife with problems. Then there’s my dad, who knows enough because he uses one for his main job (and a Mac for everything important), and has never had any sort of major bug/glitch/freak out. I don’t get it…

    Waa had this to say on Aug 26, 2005 Posts: 110
  • What would I do? I’d get the patch (and there would be a patch pretty quickly, I bet), and move on.

    What I wouldn’t do is freak out. I wouldn’t run out and buy some new virus software. I might install Clam AV, but probably not.

    It’ll eventually happen, but it’ll never be as common as Windows virii. If I got one virus every five years or so, I wouldn’t change my habits one bit.

    Billy K had this to say on Aug 26, 2005 Posts: 10
  • For Apple to keep as much of their image as possible in a situation like that, the best solution would be to release antivirus protection as a free-of-charge, built-in part of OS X (Or XX, XXX depending on the decade this happens). IMO Windows releasing antivirus software for a price creates a conflict of interest as it is better for buisness to keep the OS flawed (not that they would actually try to, it comes naturaly, you know…) and charge extra to solve the problems its OS has built-in.

    martunibo had this to say on Aug 26, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Most people, other than those that already have macs (and a lot of them don’t know either), aren’t aware that the mac is completely virus free.  Sure they may think that there are less viruses than for windows, but few know that there are actually ZERO.  This is evidenced by the fact that antivirus packages still sell relatively well for OS X (otherwise why make them at all?).  Therefore, a mac virus, even a very “deadly” one, would do very little harm to the actual company (in the sense that it would be expected).  Mac users would either install the patch or get an antivirus package.  It’s not like there would be a massive switch to Windows or Linux from OS X.  Nevertheless, it would mean a reasonable amount of bad press for Mac, and would probably stem the tide of switchers to some degree (depending on the severity of the virus and how widespread it is).

    alexpasch had this to say on Aug 26, 2005 Posts: 16
  • Not all people who use antivirus software on the Mac are idiots, I don’t want my computer to be some kind of “Typhoid Mary”, killing any PC it comes in contact with.

    I’ve already accidentally spread virus infected files to friends because the PC I copied the files from wasn’t running AV software.

    It is worth it if you’re going to transport PC files around.

    steviant had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 1
  • As a point of reference, how many *NIX viruses have there been in history?

    The reason I ask is that in most *NIX OSes, including Mac OS X, for anything “bad” to happen you have to enter an admin password, alerting you to the fact that something is happening.

    Roger Wong had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 9
  • alexpasch: Do you have any facts to support that information? I don’t mean any offense, but I’m not a Mac user and every Mac related site or author talking about OS X usually mentions the fact that it remains virus free, not to speak of forums where it is mentioned in every other post. Admittedly, however, the only mention of the word virus in Apple’s Switch and OSX pages is “intelligent design prevents the swarms of viruses and spyware that plague PCs these days” (They don’t actually say there are no virus at all).

    martunibo had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Matunibo: haven’t you just answered your own question? “Every Mac related site or author” and every forum you’ve ever read mentions that OSX is virus free. What more evidence do you want!
    And why don’t Apple shout this from the highest mountain? Wouldn’t that be like trying to start a fight with every Mac hater with some virus writing knowledge?
    And the second that Apple said it publicly you just know someobody would come out with one don’t you!
    As for not being a Mac user - switching will be the best, most-productive, most cost-effective, most fun decision you could ever make.

    hitchhiker had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 48
  • “alexpasch: Do you have any facts to support that information”

    Besides what hitchhiker said I read an article on back in March that dealt with this very topic.  The author wanted to confirm this often quoted fact.  He called the Mac product manager at a major security software company and asked him straight up if they knew of any virus for the mac.  He said no.  He then follows up with a call to Apple and they also confirm it.  If the people that make the actual antivirus say there is not a single virus for the mac at the moment, I’d believe them.  (And I haven’t heard of any virus coming out since March so there you go).,1895,1777202,00.asp

    That’s the link to the article.

    alexpasch had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 16
  • alexpasch and hitchhiker: The fact I was referring to was not about there being no virus for the Mac, I do know that, I was talking about people not knowing that there are no viruses for the Mac. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough.

    martunibo had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Martunibo: Pardon? Talking about people not knowing there are no viruses for a Mac? Apart from the authors of the various articles and forum notes quoted, every Mac user under the sun, the entire staff of Apple and Bill Gates - who else do you mean?
    You said: “I don’t mean any offense, but I’m not a Mac user and every Mac related site or author talking about OS X usually mentions the fact that it remains virus free, not to speak of forums where it is mentioned in every other post.”
    So, er, which people don’t know then that you’re asking about!? Bit confused mate!

    hitchhiker had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 48
  • hitchhiker: Wow, now I´m lost, I really don’t understand what you mean in your last post.

    If I understood everything correctly, alexpasch said that most Mac users think that there are viruses for OSX. What I asked him was wether he knew this for sure and how. What I meant with my post was that since the fact that there are no viruses for the Mac is mentioned a lot then the users, even switchers, should have heard of it.

    Talk about communication breakdown… smile

    martunibo had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 37
  • Martunibo: Sounds like it doesn’t it. In my defence, I’m in the UK and it’s almost 1.30am… so my brain might not be functioning correctly. I must admit you had me totally confused. “This guy’s a loony etc…”!

    hitchhiker had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 48
  • Hahaha, right back at you, hitchhiker, just leave a post in the next article and we’ll start a loony conversation, any time you want! wink

    martunibo had this to say on Aug 27, 2005 Posts: 37
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