The Koobface virus (Trojan) infected Facebook, MySpace and, now, Bebo. Koobface is wrecking havoc with Windows-based PC users, but Apple Mac users seem to have dodged that bullet. Are Apple computers really immune to malicious attack by viruses and other forms of malware that plague Windows PC users? The confusing answer is…maybe.
Advice on the subject of protecting ourselves from viruses, Trojans, worms, and malware confuses most of us non-techie-type Mac users. One source strongly recommends e-mail scanning programs, anti-virus software programs, and insists we install every security update promptly as they are offered by Apple. Another source then vehemently contradicts the first source on nearly every point.
Apple didn’t help matters, recently. They only added to our confusion. The company sent a support notice to users on November 21, 2008 recommending installation of anti-virus software on the Mac OS X. The notice created quite a buzz amongst Apple users and tech watchers, alike. It was believed to be the first time in Apple’s history that the company had encouraged users of its Mac operating system to employ anti-virus software. Two weeks later, the recommendation was removed from Apple’s website. A company spokeswoman said that the Nov.21 support document was “old and inaccurate.”
“The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box,” spokeswoman Jennifer Hakes told SCMagazineUS.com. “However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, running anti-virus software may offer additional protection.”
In the face of so much conflicting advice and waffle words, it’s not surprising that Apple Mac users are confused and worried their Macs are more vulnerable than they have been led to believe. It takes a good deal of reading and sifting through the writings of Apple pundits to arrive at the one point upon which no one disagrees. That point is this: computer hackers have not (yet) discovered a way execute their malicious code on ANY computer by themselves. They depend upon us – the computer owner – to do that dirty deed for them. The harsh truth is (and always has been) that we are victims by our own hands.
That’s a harsh truth to accept. It defies our sense of justice and seems a bit like the cops blaming the victim for being mugged. But, let’s be reasonable. It really isn’t the same. The guy who gets mugged in the alley is just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. We, on the other hand, are the guy who stupidly walks down that alley even after being warned that the mugger is there waiting to rob him. We (you and I) must open that bogus email attachment or download a program we haven’t verified as safe in order to execute the hacker’s code. A friend of mine insists that “stupid outta hurt.” In this case, stupid does hurt.
There is one point on which every Apple expert seems to agree. The Mac user who refuses to open ANY email attachment, not even from his mother, cannot be hacked. The Mac user who never downloads free programs, widgets, gadgets, and updates from unknown third-party websites cannot be hacked. And, the Mac user who refuses to respond to a pop-up telling him to download a Flash player update cannot fall prey to the Koobface hackers. The bottom line is that you don’t need to buy an anti-virus program to protect your Mac. In addition to the security built into your computer by Apple, you already have the best, most effective computer defender on the planet – you.
Mac users can take comfort in the knowledge that no viruses have so far been detected that can attack OS X anywhere other than under laboratory conditions. So far, malicious programs have been written specifically for the Windows PC operating system. Even the infamous Koobface is incapable of executing on the Mac OS – with a notable exception. Macs running Microsoft Windows programs are vulnerable. Be vigilant when working within the Windows platform on your Mac.
As an Apple Mac user, we do enjoy a certain immunity from the viruses, worms, Trojans, and malware that afflicts our Windows PC brethren. But, that doesn’t mean we can become complacent or careless. Be cautious and be smart because, sometimes, stupid really does hurt.