Often during the great Mac vs. PC debates the topic of viruses comes up. It is generally accepted that PCs are frequently plagued by viruses and malware, while Macs appear practically immune to them. Today this statement is becoming less true, and recently questions have been raised concerning whether Macs now need anti-virus/anti-malware software just as PCs do.
Macs have been around for over 20 years with minimal virus issues. A few trojans have really been the only problems, and with basic tech education and careful installation of software these viruses are easily avoidable. Yet, due to recent outbreaks of viruses running wild, such as the Flashback malware, and the inability of common antivirus software, such as McAfee and Symantec, to catch it, the necessity of quality anti-virus protection for Macs has become a forefront issue.
The Flashback malware first appeared last September. It was initially a trojan that tricked users into downloading it by disguising itself as installation for a flash player, and according to experts it had infected over 500,000 Mac computers, an estimated one percent of Macs worldwide. This matches the impact of the widespread Conficker virus which infected approximately one percent of PC users, although over nine million in total. As with Conflicker, this number was rapidly reduced in a brief period of time by removal tools, but no one is really sure of the remaining Macs affected at this point.
As with all previously reported malware / virus attacks on the Mac platform, Apple has been quiet. It will be interesting to see if Apple "steps up" their own internal systems to control outbreaks in the same fashion that Microsoft did with their "Malicious software removal tool" a few years ago. That software was released as an operating system update and virtually eliminated wild virus outbreaks which of course spurred on the virus authors to switch tactics and write malware instead!
Since Flashback first struck, the sale of anti-virus/anti-malware protection for Macs has skyrocketed, as security conscious users have become aware of this recent malware and have taken action to protect their information. But, is it truly necessary for the everyday Mac user to download anti-virus software?
Overprotection is never a problem, especially if your Mac contains confidential and important information that you would like to protect. Furthermore, it would be wise for your business Macs to get anti-virus protection and anti-malware protection, particularly while they remain vulnerable to certain trojans and other browser/java based threats. For the average Mac user who is careful where you visit and cautious in what you download you should have minimal risk. But, that being said, protection can't hurt and as with PC's, it's better to be safe than sorry.
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