Mac virus susceptibility questioned

It's been a long-standing belief of many Mac proponents that their platform is inherently less susceptible to viruses that Windows. That's a myth, according to an article recently published by Computing entitled "Experts explode 'Mac is safer' myth."

Writer James Middleton's sole source for this refutation is a spokesperson for Symantec Corp., which makes antivirus software for the Macintosh. Symantec also alleges that 62 percent of Mac users have migrated to the platform because of the perception of increased security, according to Middleton's report. "In the past even the U.S. Army has moved its web servers over to Mac OS in the mistaken belief that they will be more secure," wrote Middleton.

What's not in dispute, even from Symantec, is that Windows-based computers are far more prone to virus infestation than Mac systems are. "Obviously there are more PC-only viruses out there, but there are still over 7,000 macro viruses which can hit either Mac or PC platforms," said Symantec's Kevin Chapman.

Macro viruses are activated inside application software -- most notoriously the applications included with various versions of Microsoft Corp.'s popular Office suite. Staying on top of security updates from Microsoft, deactivating macros, using virus protection software, or using application software that doesn't depend on macros effectively reduces or eliminates the threat of Macro virus infestation from the Macintosh all together -- a point excluded from Middleton's coverage.

Chapman also told Middleton that Mac OS-based systems could be "incubators" for Windows viruses. Such viruses won't affect the Mac users directly, but can be passed to Windows users and thus can wreak havoc.

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Peter Cohen

PC World
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