Apple recommends an Antivirus. So what?

by Milind Alvares

Apple recommends an Antivirus. So what?

by Milind Alvares on December 2, 2008

A few days ago we came across a link pointing to an Apple KnowledgeBase article recommending an antivirus to Mac users. We thought this was funny and even tweeted about it. Didn’t think it was worthy of a post by itself.

A week later, and almost all tech sites are seen carrying bold headlines stating “Apple pushes Antivirus for Mac“. Yes, that’s a link to an article on BBC UK! This is just plain madness.

First of all, the only reason Apple has put up that page, is because of legal reasons. Perhaps also to keep antivirus makers happy about developing for the Mac, should there be a virus outbreak in the future. There is no way this has anything to do with Apple cowering in fear or that Mac OS X has suddenly become a popular target by hackers.

Still disagree? Well, 9to5Mac has posted a similar article, stating that Apple has posted similar KB articles before, one that goes way back to 2002!

From Mac Maintainance Assist Article: April 2008

6) Check for Viruses 
Macs are far more less likely to get a computer virus like Windows PCs are prone to but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you don’t already have antivirus software, you may want to consider making a purchase. If you have the software installed, be sure to keep your virus definitions up to date—you can find the latest updates on your software manufacturer’s website. 

I realise that there have been a few outbreaks of viruses in these past few months, but each and every one of them require an Admin and Password to be entered to do any damage at all. So all you need right now is common sense, not to install suspicious packages, and be careful when you enter your admin password.

Update: Apple has since removed the page from the database. CNET has a quote from Apple spokesperson Bill Evans. 

“We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate,” Apple spokesperson Bill Evans said. “The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box. However, since no system can be 100 percent immune from every threat, running antivirus software may offer additional protection.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Neilio

Is would be stupid to think that just because you use OS X you won’t have a virus. Yes, the current virus require Admin access, but this doesn’t mean a back-door won’t be found (or opened) in the future.

Windows is affected by the number of virus based on it’s install based. Yes it’s easier, but that debated to exactly how it’s easier; more documentation on system or lazy programmer. But with the recent news on the web usage of OS X and also Safari (http://www.macrumors.com/2008/12/01/safari-tops-7-of-browser-market-share-mac-os-x-on-the-rise/), they may start running in to groups who are willing to start compromising Mac (those running Warez or Cracked software may already be at risk due to the nature of those programs).

Also, orignally the users of OS X knew a bit about the system to suffice without worry and there wasn’t a worry. But my recent trip to an Apple store showed me that as that user base expands, there is more ignorant people purchasing Macs who may well have the view that they are safe from virus and can open anything without worry. So for those not so tech savvy users (or “Pirates”), a virus scanner is useful.

I don’t use one personally on my Mac as I consider myself “tech savvy”, and I wouldn’t at work either if it wasn’t for a case of Sods Law if I didn’t.

So yes, it’s a little overblown, but don’t blow it down. Chances of getting a virus are slim on a mac, but no way you are safe.

   

JohnO

I am both an ISP and a reseller and the ONLY AV we have on any machines is on our mail servers as that it the only contact we have with Windows. Not any of the numerous other Macs in our organization have it as AV is a conflict from moment one.

I will remind those who say Macs aren’t immune that the challenge has been out there for a number of years and the only alleged virus reports we get is from those selling AV, like the Gawd-awful “the sky is falling” Intego, and Symantec, none of whose products aren’t allowed near our Macs.

Might it happen? Certainly. But AV wouldn’t stop it as AV is always AFTER the fact. It is always behind AV writers and never anticipates. It can only fix or protect from already KNOWN virusses.

So you might as well wait until a virus shows up. So far, that is a very good approach.

Apple is just covering its legal butt.
Tech sites like this should know better.

   

Milind Alvares

“Tech sites like this should know better.”

I hope you read the post, cause we’re pretty much with you on this :)

   

Liam

My head has been spinning looking at nut job sites (even big ones like AI) making a huge deal out of this. That page is obviously kept for legal reasons and everyone assumes it is Apple forcing antivirus software on users. I mean, haven’t you seen a KB article before? They always have a ‘use this advice if you like’ kind of atmosphere about them. I have an “Apple” search going on in TweetDeck. Oh my. 50% of the tweets were about this crap.

   

brotherStefan

I just love it when I’m reminded that Macs aren’t immune to virus infection. Now, I’m unaware of any anti-virus app that is able to protect me from a virus that hasn’t yet been written. The apps than I can buy (make that, subscribe to) will protect my Mac from 140,000 existing virus variations (variations that affect PCs, not Macs). Even with that protection, it won’t protect me if I am unlucky enough to be among the first targets of that OOTB (Out of the Blue) virus that everybody “knows” is coming. I mean, the virus has to be detected before an anti-virus definition can be written, doesn’t it? In order for it to be detected, it has to infect some hapless target, and those initial targets would be just as hapless whether or not they had the protection of the previous 10 year’s worth of virus definitions. Malware writers don’t write malware to be detected by existing anti-virus software.

   

Benjamin

This is the only site I’ve seen that has sensibly carried the antivirus page issue. Way to go smoking apples.

And until a virus installs all on its own on my mac, I won’t be bothering with an antivirus.

   

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