We all remember the classic Mac Vs. PC advertisements of the late 2000s, where you would see casual “I’m a Mac” asking “I’m a PC” about all of his many problems. PC would then go on an awkward tirade about his glaring flaws and his “this just represents the status quo when you’re a PC” mentality. With an incredulous look on his face, Mac proceeded to recapitulate how “woe is you” PC’s existence was, and then outline a series of ways in which Mac doesn’t experience this problem or that. Of the many claims made therein, one huge drawing point Apple always made sure to underline was the invulnerability of Macs to malware-based threats.
Commercial campaigns belonging to the Mac Vs. PC series ended several years ago, and yet many people still assume that Macs are immune to pretty much any threat. The truth is, although a virus by definition typically won’t pose a threat to a Mac, most people tend to mistake a “Virus” for the broader term of “Malware”.
In many cases, malware does not even have to be written for Mac OS to be able to get in. Especially in cases where Java or Flash are involved, nearly any device running either runtime can be vulnerable. Not only that, but many forms of pervasive Adware, which can be just as annoying to deal with, have been designed exclusively for the Mac environment.
When it comes to actual vulnerabilities that can be exploited, both Mac and PC have become increasingly more secure as time has passed, and relatively few major breaches occur compared to years past. However, devices running Mac OS are still just as crippled as those running Windows in probably their greatest vulnerability: You.
Many threats, from online scams, to phishing and identity theft schemes, to malware and trojan horses, are designed with minimal or no intention of breaching or otherwise exploiting a vulnerability in software design. Instead, they aim to trick or convince users of their validity, and then, once they have your unwitting permission, they carry out their purpose, whatever it may be.
At the end of the day, the best defense against malware is a conscientious user. Gone are the days of click and think; the best practice today is to think before you click. Always remember to read what’s on the screen, especially looking for the fine print – and ask yourself when you’re installing something, “Do I need to install this program? What purpose does it serve? Am I getting only what I’m asking for?” If you’re unsure of something, or a program looks fishy, don’t take the risk. Call a professional or your local technician and inquire.