Mac users urged to wake up from faith based security dream

A security expert is shouting at Apple Mac users to wake up from trusting their faith-based security systems – and telling them that they are just as vulnerable to finding themselves on the wrong end of a cyber attack as Windows users.

Traditionally, Windows has been the target of choice for malicious hackers and cyber criminals. Primarily, this has been because Windows is used so much more widely than the traditional underdog that was once Apple. But times are changing, and even if they weren’t, so many cyber attacks are the fault of the user.

Graham Cluley at Sophos told Macworld UK – which also details other threats, full report here – that Windows users are much more likely to have their antivirus programs up to date, whereas Mac users are slipping into complacency and don’t have that “valuable safety net”.

Adding to those comments, he told TechEye that although the overwhelming majority of malware – at over 100,000 new samples every day – are designed to infect Windows, there are a handful of new Mac malware samples and variants each week.

“The increase in popularity of Apple products, combined with the typical Apple user’s ‘head in the sand’ approach to security, has meant that they are looking like an increasingly attractive target,” he said.

Cluley pointed out that Apple user don’t tend to recognise most Windows malware doesn’t rely on software exploits, rather, they take advantage of social engineering. This could be clicking on a bogus attachment, surfing a dangerous link, or installing dodgy software.

Sophos saw “a flood of Mac malware activity” hitting users in mid-2011. They were mostly fake anti-virus programs, and there has been a steady stream of new malware attacks since.

The marketing experts at Apple who spread the rumour that the Mac is an impenetrable fortress may have kept up Cupertino’s bottom line, but that message still persists and is doing more harm than good.

“It’s foolhardy not to protect your Mac with anti-virus software and to keep it updated,” Cluley said. “Especially as there are free Mac anti-virus options available – you really have nothing to lose”.