Quite often I hear the explanation that Macs don’t get infected by viruses, because Apple’s market share is so small, it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort write a proper Mac OS X virus. This implies that once Mac OS X has reached a critical market share level, there will be a sudden outbreak of hundreds of viruses. My simple question is this: how come there has (to my knowledge) been no actual Mac virus affecting Mac OS X while there have been a couple of viruses affecting Linux, despite its even smaller market share? Wikipedia lists the following Linux viruses:
- Alaeda – Virus.Linux.Alaeda
- Bad Bunny – Perl.Badbunny
- Binom – Linux/Binom
- Diesel – Virus.Linux.Diesel.962
- Kagob a – Virus.Linux.Kagob.a
- Kagob b – Virus.Linux.Kagob.b
- MetaPHOR (also known as Simile)
- Nuxbee – Virus.Linux.Nuxbee.1403
- Podloso – Linux.Podloso (The iPod virus)
- Rike – Virus.Linux.Rike.1627
- RST – Virus.Linux.RST.a
- Satyr – Virus.Linux.Satyr.a
- Vit – Virus.Linux.Vit.4096
- Winter – Virus.Linux.Winter.341
- Winux (also known as Lindose and PEElf)
- Wit virus
- ZipWorm – Virus.Linux.ZipWorm
Can someone, please, explain to me in a rational way how this list can be so long, despite Linux being such a terribly small platform? I suppose, as I do not know for certain myself, that most of these viruses are rather harmless, and that most wouldn’t work on modern Linux systems, as they probably explore vulnerabilities that have been patched in revisions of the OS. I also am aware of that there have been proof-of-concept viruses for Mac, that utilize vulnerabilities that later have been fixed. Some of the viruses in the list above may be similar proof-of-concept examples for Linux.
Personally, I think OSX and Linux match up quite well when it comes to virus security, and that this has nothing to do with the size of the platform, but everything to do with the UNIX/UNIX-like foundation underneath. In both cases, the worst threat is the users themselves, who often allow to run malicious code without knowing what they are doing. This is a big threat to any computer platform, regardless of the security measures taken by programmers. As long as the user can install new software, this will be a potential threat (even though sandboxing and securely signing applications can decrease the risk of malware infection).
That being said, Mac OS X is incredibly easy to hack once you have access to the computer. This is a problem, and Apple really should be busy fixing that. But please aim your guns at the right issues. Mac viruses is not a real threat for the moment, just as Linux viruses is not really a big threat to Ubuntu users. That a Mac can be hacked to gain root access in a minute – that is a problem, which have everything to do with OS architecture. However, making the Mac market share smaller will not solve this problem, nor will it get worse as the platform expands. If we’re in luck, though, Apple may acknowledge the problem as its user base grows, and address it before it gets too late.