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Tuesday, February 1

Mac and Safety  

Is the Mac actually safer? SpyWare, AdWare, malware in general, all of it seeking to destroy my WindowsME installation. Will my looming switch to the mac make me safer? Yes. Why? Because OS X is structurally more impervious to these maladies. True? You bet your buster browns say the mac people. Not true say the, er, experts? From yesterday's Salon article:

According to experts, though, it isn't the Mac's better structure that accounts for why so few pieces of malware and spyware are aimed at the operating system — it's the size of its user base. If miscreants really put their heads to it, they could probably come up with many dangerous attacks against the Mac — but who would want to? Faced with the choice of disrupting 95 percent of the computer users in the world or just 3 percent, which would you choose? The choice is especially obvious for the purveyors of spyware, who, remember, depend on high numbers of infected machines to make money. If you want to make a killing in the spyware business, you're not going to get far by attacking the Mac.

Who are these experts? They go unnamed in the article. Normally I'd let this pass since a reporter will interview many, many sources for a story and if the same general comment comes from many of them, it makes sense to aggregate these comments as the opinion of 'experts.' But in this case I think it's a point worth belaboring. I have spent a great deal of time trying to fix and/or fireproof a number of my family's computers from the perils of malware. It would be of significant help to me if I could say definitively that they will be better off just buying a Mac because these problems are all but non-existent (and getting smaller) when running that environment.

After reading Backlash (via TUAW and MacDailyNews), I am convinced that the 'market share' argument is so much nonsense. And yet, I am always open to a lucid counter-argument. So who are these experts and what evidence (if any) do they have to back up their [collective, paraphrased] assertion? I think that the reason for the profusion of malware for Windows raised in the Salon article is strong. "The choice is especially obvious for the purveyors of spyware, who, remember, depend on high numbers of infected machines to make money." Malware writers do not write for glory, but for profit. If enough profit were to exist in the Mac market, they would enter it. And yet, "[m]any orders of magnitude more people look over the source code for OS X and the related BSDs than have access to Windows source code."

I peg the useful like of a computer at roughly 3½ years. I feel I can say with confidence to family members that their next PC purchase should be a Mac machine, not a Windows machine. To the list of superior features of the Mac OS I now add (for at least the next 3½ years) freedom from malware.

tags: , windows


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