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  • Would Someone Please Just Release a Mac OS X Virus Already?

    Posted by Shannon Love on February 5th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Because, people, the suspense is killing me.

    If you went back in time to 2002, at the time of the initial release of Mac OS X, and told everyone that over the next eight years not a single Mac OS X virus or worm would be found in the wild, everyone, including me, would have called you barking mad.

    Ever since Apple began the transition to Mac OS X in 1999, computer security experts have every week of every month of every year confidently told us that Mac OS X is just as vulnerable on a technological level as Windows or any other operating system. By that they mean that it is just as technically easy for a malicious programmer to write a program to hijack the operating system of Mac as it is to write a program to hijack a Windows machine.

    Several times a year, they demonstrate flaws in Mac OS X that they claim could be used to spread viruses. They complain about Apple’s insular, arrogant and cavalier attitude toward finding and patching these security flaws. They tell us that all these factors make Mac OS X a ticking bomb and that “any day now” Mac users will face a sudden tsunami of self-propagating viruses and worms just like Windows users do.

    They tell us the exact same thing every week, month and year.

    They told us that in 1999 with the release of Mac OS X server.
    They told us that in 2000.
    They told us that in 2001.
    They really told us that in 2002 when Mac OS X shipped widely for desktops.
    They told us that in 2002.
    They told us that in 2003.
    They told us that in 2004.
    They told us that in 2005.
    They told us that in 2006.
    They told us that in 2007.
    They told us that in 2008.
    They told us that in 2009
    And they continue to tell us that in 2010.

    Yet, der Tag never comes and waiting for it is giving me ulcers.

    So, I have to ask: How many more years have to elapse before we begin to suspect the security experts (and everyone else, myself included) have misunderstood something critical about how the Mac OS X security model works out in the real world?

    For the past eight years, since I switched to Mac OS X, I have believed that Mac OS X was intrinsically as vulnerable as everyone says, and I have been sitting anxiously on the edge of my chair for all these years waiting for the predicted Mac OS X pandemic, but it has never arrived. Not only has the pandemic never arrived, but Mac OS X has never even caught so much as a sniffle. The stress of years of waiting for the inevitable wrecking of my Macs by viruses and worms has apparently pushed me over the edge, because I have begun to think dark, mad, heretical thoughts.

    I have begun to think maybe, just maybe, the weekly, monthly and yearly cookie-cutter, rote warnings about Mac OS X security are wrong.

    Insane, I know, but in any other context, eight-plus years of a predicted problem never materializing would cause us to seriously doubt that the “experts” making the prediction knew what they were talking about. Imagine that in 2002, a doctor told two people named, say, Mac and PC that they were both immune compromised and that each would have to fight off infection after infection for the foreseeable future. If Mac came back eight years later looking hale and hearty and never having had a sniffle while PC looked like a hacking leper in a Monty Python skit, most people would conclude that the doctor had misdiagnosed Mac.

    Why don’t we apply the same standard to the claims about Mac OS X’s vulnerability to viruses and worms? How many times do we/they get to say, “this time for sure” and get a pass when we/they are wrong?

    Well, we are told, there are non-technological reasons why not a single solitary Mac OS X virus or worm has ever appeared in the wild.

    For example, we are told that the criminals and those seeking cracker infamy do a top-down market-share analysis just like a corporation does when deciding what platform to write software for. This market-share analysis (that all the blackhats learned in business school) teaches them not to bother writing software for the Mac because the market share is so small that there’s no profit in it.

    I have begun to question this for several reasons:

    (1) Back in the ’90s Mac OS Classic had an even smaller market share and even smaller profit potential and yet it was riddled with viruses and worms.

    (2) The Mac’s market share has grown significantly since the Mac OS Classic days, but viruses have totally disappeared following the shift to the Mac OS X operating system.

    (3) There are 30+ million Macs out in the world today. The real money for evil programmers is in Internet-connected computers, and there Macs account for somewhere between 5% and 10%. For those playing at home, that means that somewhere between every 1 in 20 and every 1 in 10 Internet-connected computers is running Mac OS X.

    I would think that some small malware “company” would at least try to infect a small fraction of those 30 million Macs, you know, just as a public service to an under served market segment.

    But I never went to business school, so what do I know?

    On the other hand it occurs to me that maybe all the black hats didn’t go to business school either, and that instead of doing market-share analysis they instead approach the problem like, what’s the word?

    Oh, yeah, criminals…

    I know this will be a radical idea to most people, but just suppose in a wild supposition that malware programmers don’t give a rat’s hindquarters what percentage of the total world-wide installed base of computers they infect, but instead just care if they can infect enough machines in absolute numbers to pull off whatever scam they’re planning. What if they know that most botnets have under 10,000 machines? What if they look at a list of the top 10 largest botnets to date, and discover that three of the top 10 had only 300,000 machines or less? What if they think in terms of, “If I can infect and control just 300,000 machines I can make a killing!”

    What if think, “The experts say that Mac OS X is just as easy to infect as Windows. They say Apple has a careless attitude toward to security. Mac users are naive. Fewer Macs are professionally administered. Almost no Macs run anti-malware software and there’s 30 million Internet-connected Macs!” What if they do a little number-crunching and think, “Wow, if I could infect just 1% of all the vulnerable Mac out there I could have a botnet in the top 10 of all time!”

    What if they give up on their dreams of infecting every single Windows machine on the planet just for the glory, and instead settle for making big gobs of money infecting a small percentage of the Macs that all the security experts tell us are just sitting out there like a passed-out sorority girl with her bra stuffed with cash?

    Wait, what have I done! Obviously, my genius has lead me to discover a cash cow that all the thousands of black hats over the last eight years have completely missed. Right now all over the world they’re smacking their foreheads and exclaiming, “Da! Of course! 30 million unprotected Macs! Why didn’t I think of that?”

    Honestly, I try to use my superhuman intellect to do good but even I make mistakes. Now my brilliant economic insight will cause Mac OS X users to suffer a deluge of malware just like Windows users!

    Either that or all the security experts are in fact largely wrong about Mac OS X security, and the blackhats don’t attack the Mac because they can’t. (Personally, I like the explanation that makes me a genius.)

    And what about all the malware programmers in the world who don’t care about money? What if some do it out of challenge or out of political or personal motivation? In eight years has not one of them taken a successful run at Mac OS X? Not a one? A single one? Anyone? Bueller?

    I keep coming back to large numbers. There are at a bare minimum tens of thousands of people world-wide with the programming skills necessary to exploit any one of the flaws in Mac OS X security. Eight years is a lifetime in the computer industry, and 30 million computers is a lot of computers no matter how many other computers are out there.

    (Eight years) X (thousands of malevolent programmers) X (30+ million easily infected Macs) ! = ZERO viruses.

    One of our variables is wrong.

    All these numbers should have added up to not just one, but dozens or hundreds of successful self-propagating virus and worm variants attacking Macs. Mac OS X should at the very least be as plagued by viruses and worms as Mac OS Classic was. At the very, very least, Mac OS X should have a few dozen viruses and worms like Linux.

    But zero, nada, zilch, bupkis?

    When do we stop regurgitating the same explanations year after year and start thinking that maybe we’ve missed something? If not now, then do we wait another eight years to 2015? How about 2021? If by then Mac OS XX Quantum still doesn’t have a single virus can we conclude we’ve been wrong?

    Nah. What kind of madness would that be? Why, if we start evaluating experts’ actual knowledge of an area by whether their predictions actually come true, that would lead to anarchy. I mean, do we really want to think like scientists?

    No, the Mac OS X virus is out there lurking just like they’ve said all these years. I feel it in my bones.

    Eight years ago, transitioning from the virus ridden Mac OS Classic to Mac OS X for me was like putting my foot up on the last stair step that wasn’t there. I didn’t know how to deal with the sudden lack of malware. Heck, fixing malware on Macs had helped pay my bills for many years. I thought the lack of viruses was the result of the OS being relatively new. Every day I expected to hear of the great Mac OS X viral outbreak…

    … but it never came.

    Now, eight years later, the ever predicted but never appearing Mac OS X viral gotterdammerung haunts me like the unseen monster of dread in a childhood nightmare. I’m always told by everyone that it’s right there, just out of sight in the shadows or knocking around inside the walls. For eight years, I have sat perched anxiously on the edge of my chair waiting for the boogie monster to jump out or at least the other shoe to drop. Now I’ve got vigilance fatigue, I need sleep and I’ve got splinters in my butt.

    So, somebody out there, do me and the rest of all the Mac users a solid and please, please, please write a Mac OS X virus!

    You don’t have to do anything evil with it, just release it and let spread. Really, it will make us all very happy. We can stop jumping at shadows and concentrate on real, solid threats for a change.

    I’m begging here. Don’t make me suffer in suspense for another eight years.

     

    33 Responses to “Would Someone Please Just Release a Mac OS X Virus Already?”

    1. Anonymous Says:

      There are a few OSX specific viruses and worms tracked here:

      http://www.securemac.com/

      Hope that helps.

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      Anonymous,

      The site is just a collection of Mac OS X security information.

      Tellingly I think, the site list several security concerns under the heading of “Mac OS X Security”. All the concerns are over 5 years old and none of them resulted in actual exploits.

      The site list no active/inactive viruses or worms i.e. self-reproducing pieces of malware for MacOS X. There is no malware for Mac OS X that doesn’t not require active installation by the user. More importantly, there has never been any.

    3. James McCormick Says:

      Dear Shannon,

      Senior IT security experts talk through the issue here:

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-10444561-245.html

      It boils down to relative safety versus relative security. Note that all suggest running anti-virus software on the Mac … and watching out, more specifically, for browser-based attacks.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      James McCormick,

      Well, they’ve been saying the same thing for eight years now. At some point, you have to begin to wonder how much they really understand about how malware operates in the real world.

      I don’t think Mac users should run anti-virus software. What is the software going to protect against? Since there are no actual Mac viruses or worms in the wild, you’re going to get nothing but an unending stream of false positives…

      … for years on end.

      You’re more likely to suffer data loss from the anti-virus software having a bug or otherwise interrupting the system than you are to be infected by a still theoretical Mac OS X virus. It would be like taking the risk of having yourself vaccinated against smallpox every year just on the off chance it might make a comeback.

      Like I said, it’s been the same song and dance for eight years now. At what point do we begin to expect they’re blowing smoke?

    5. Louis Wheeler Says:

      James, The Mac is theoretically vulnerable to a mass malware attack, but it is not, as a practical matter. Why? The Mac has much better foundations than Windows. Mac OSX is based on FreeBSD UNIX which has been under attack on the internet for almost thirty years. Most of the errors in its code has been corrected. What vulnerabilities there are in FreeBSD tend to creep in during improvements to the system.

      Microsoft has made some major mistakes with Windows which lead to it being an insecure system. Dave Cutler started off importing the Vax VMS UNIX Operating System to Windows, but he was told to allow for compatibility with old 16 bit Dos programs. This caused Windows to remain a stand alone disk system. This was before security hazards like ActiveX were introduced to Internet Explorer. Recently, a 17 year old vulnerability was found in the original DOS operating system which is still in use in all versions of Windows, including Windows Seven. Windows is just bad code.

      Microsoft blew its chance of having a secure OS in 1994. Microsoft was in a partnership with IBM to create OS/2. Bill Gates stabbed that project in the back in order to gain a monopoly with the Windows 95 OS which was far less secure than OS/2.

      Meanwhile, Steve Jobs was tossed out of Apple, so he went off to start NeXT corp where his engineers created an object oriented, modern, modular OS in three years. It was the best OS of 1993, but it had no developers or users. The established software companies were ignoring NeXT, while they feverishly tried to copy its design.

      The old Mac OS had no better foundations than Windows does today, so it had plenty of virus’ and worms. Apple, repeatedly, tried to create a modern operating system which had backward compatibility to the old OS, but this was impossible. The names of Apple’s failures were Pink, Taligent, Copland and Gershwin.

      Apple was forced in 1997 to buy NeXT corporation to get the NeXTstep Operating System. It took Apple five years to convert NeXTstep into Mac OSX which was good enough to replace the old MacOS. Since OSX was released, there has been exactly two Trojan Horses on the Mac– no Virus’, no worms, no spyware or adware.

      The “Security by Obscurity” argument makes no sense. Apple went from being 1.5% of the US market, in 2000, to just under 10%, today. If it were easy to fool the Mac OS, then Apple would have a percentage of the total malware, rather than none. Also, if you cared about malware, you would want a system which is the most free from it, even if the reason was because few people used it.

      There is less reason each year to avoid Apple. Apple’s hardware does cost more that White box manufacturers and equal to a Dell computer, but Apple’s Total Cost of Ownership is much less than a PC when you add in the maintenance, repair and up keep costs for four years. Small business owners report that their employees are twenty percent more efficient on Mac’s. Macs have less downtime than PC’s and the users maintain their own computers, so the numbers of IT personnel are small.

      The major drawback for PC owners is specialized software for the Enterprise markets, but the amount of Windows only software is deceasing. Eventually, every PC application will have its Mac equivalent.

      Around about June or July, Apple will be converting to the 64 bit kernel by default. It has held off since Snow Leopard’s release at the last of August to allow developers to upgrade to 64 bit code. When Apple boots into the 64 bit kernel, a whole host of new security procedures will be enabled: ASLR, DEP and the Sand boxing of applications. Apple hasn’t made a big deal about these things, but they will make the Mac vastly more secure than Windows Seven. There are other security advantages which Apple has hinted at, but hasn’t spoken much of, so we will have to wait.

    6. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Shannon, I expect major changes around June or July when Apple converts to the 64 bit kernel. Not only will the Mac be more secure, but it will be much faster because of applications converted to 64 bit code, OpenCL, Grand Central Dispatch and Squirrelfish.

      The Carbon API’s and 32 bit code will be quickly sidelined. You will be able to run them, but you will little reason to do so. The Mac will become fully object oriented within the following year. Grand things will come from that and 10.7’s new features won’t be long delayed.

      Many 64 bit applications will be reporting between 200 to 1200% faster speed than their Windows equivalent on the same computer. Won’t that shake thing up?

      I believe that Apple has been caught in a bind. The Microsoft FUD machine is too good. Apple can’t simply be better than an equally priced PC, it has to make people to go WOW, to gain notice. Apple has been slowly adding benefits which will culminate soon.

      If Apple is to gain the most impact in the Press, it has to be secretive. It, accordingly, is not foretelling the consequences which I expect.

      Of Course, we will have to wait for events to unfold. It won’t be long, but it will catch many experts by surprise.

    7. Michael Kennedy Says:

      My test is my daughter. She had a virus a week in spite of a couple of anti-virus programs and periodically scanning it with Adaware and something else. About every three or four months I would have to get a network guy who was really good come in and delouse it. A couple of times he had to format the hard drive and reinstall everything. When she was going away to college I insisted she get a Mac laptop. I wasn’t going to be close enough to be delousing her PC very week or two. It’s been almost two years and no virus or malware.

      That is almost miraculous. I had a hard time getting her to change and I asked her why. She was worried about all her downloaded music. I asked how much she had.

      7000 songs. That’s where the viruses came from.

    8. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Tried it, didn’t like it.

    9. A. C. Says:

      “Mac OSX is based on FreeBSD UNIX which has been under attack on the internet for almost thirty years. ”

      Well, actually there’s based on.. and there’s based on. Conceptually, OS X is based on FreeBSD. OS X also borrows a lot of tools from FreeBSD. The operating system makes itself look very much like FreeBSD to user-level applications. But at it’s heart it is Carnegie-Mellon’s Mach micro-kernel, which Steve Jobs bought rights to when he started Next to boot-strap his NeXTStep OS. Carnegie-Mellon Computer Science department had been developing Mach for between 5 and 10 years when Jobs bought rights to use it.

      By the way, Apple _had_ to buy NeXTStep because Steve Jobs made it a requirement when he came back. He was savvy enough to realize that it was a good starting point for a fully-multitasking OS capable of making use of virtual memory and other features that make a good OS.

      Nobody expected the OS to be as resistant to external attack as it has been. It could be just luck and that Microsoft makes such a lovely, fat target.

      But in answer to the question “When will Mac users will face a sudden tsunami of self-propagating viruses and worms just like Windows’ users do?” Real Soon Now, which, as first defined by Jerry Pournelle about 25 or 26 years ago is anywhere from two weeks to twenty years. So keep alert, and don’t go poking holes in your firewall.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      A. C.

      Real Soon Now, which, as first defined by Jerry Pournelle about 25 or 26 years ago is anywhere from two weeks to twenty years. So keep alert, and don’t go poking holes in your firewall.

      I don’t take any chances but I am interested in the phenomena where experts tell us Macs are just as vulnerable as Windows machines year after year without any real world proof this is true. They certainly can’t predict when the first virus will appear. No one can even offer a market share number where it is magically supposed to become profitable to write Mac malware.

    11. James McCormick Says:

      Woops.

      I seem to have fallen into the role of “executed” messenger. My intent was merely to pass along comments by well-known IT security folks. Since I really don’t care what “religion” people follow (after 32 years in the computer biz I’ve seen plenty of range wars), feel free to disregard the link and their opinions entirely.

      The CNET article does a pretty good job of summarizing the relative risks by having numerous security people (looking beyond just the O/S) evaluate both platforms. Since phishing and web-based attacks can be platform-independent, over-confident or oblivious users can dig themselves a trench on either machine. Being of less interest to criminals is, I guess, an enduring (relative) form of protection. But as the recent Google hack illustrated, it’s corporate assets and web-based applications that are the profitable target. And if corporate employees run enough Macs at home, logic suggests that the Chinese and Russians will have enough incentive to create trojans and exploits for the Mac that fully flesh out their corporate raids.

      My two cents.

    12. Jonathan Says:

      -Microsoft has been a second-rate company since the end of the dot-com boom. Its stock price hasn’t changed much since then, so it hasn’t been able to use stock options as an incentive to attract the best programmers. C’est la vie. Google, Apple and almost all other companies will eventually go the same way.

      -Windows security does indeed have flaws. Macs may be a better choice for naive users. However, if you don’t use IE, Outlook or Outlook Express, don’t download music or executables from sketchy sites, and keep your Windows installation updated the risk is low. The fact that Windows is still widely used suggests that the risk level is acceptable for most users and that initial price remains an important consideration.

      -In some industries necessary software is only available for Windows.

      -As James suggested, server-side issues are a big deal. At this point I’m more worried about WordPress issues than Windows issues.

      -To each his own. I want a new computer and for the first time am considering getting a Mac. I probably won’t, because it’s still more expensive and for my purposes the functionality will be essentially the same. However, the quality and price differences between Windows and Apple machines have become small enough that I could probably go either way.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      James McCormick,

      My intent was merely to pass along comments by well-known IT security folks.

      Not sure if you followed the link in parent post but I was commenting on the same post you pointed to. I was explicitly pointing out that most of the “experts” in your article were making the same arguments they’ve been making for eight years with no definitive proof one way or the other.

      I’m actually more interested at this point in the social process of the discussion than the technological realities. If in fact, Macs do have a serious security technology edge, what does that say about the way we think and talk about technology? Have we accepted the “security through low-marketshare” explanation because we’ve tested it and found it true or because so many people have a professional and psychological (choice rationalization) investment in Microsoft?

      It’s true that phishing attacks are just as dangerous on the Mac as PCs but that is because they are non-technology based scams that target humans instead of technology. All phishing scams could be carried out with hardcopy, telephones or in person. Likewise, it’s impossible to protect a system from a trojan because the control of the installation of the trojan lays with the user. Trojans are utterly trivial to write.

      And if corporate employees run enough Macs at home, logic suggests that the Chinese and Russians will have enough incentive to create trojans and exploits for the Mac that fully flesh out their corporate raids.[emp added]

      You’re making the market share argument again. I don’t like this argument because its vague and untestable i.e. you can’t prove it wrong. “Enough” isn’t a number. You don’t actually know what the market share for Macs would have to be before it would become profitable to start attacking them. As Mac market share and visibility has risen, the security issues have not risen in tandem so presumably there is some magic market share threshold that has to be reached. However, to my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to figure out what that threshold might be. The magic market share number is always “greater than whatever it is right now.”

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      Jonathan,

      I agree that Windows is the way to go for most people. Windows and Microsoft have always excelled at database work with is the unglamorous heavy lifting of the computer world. The entire platform is based around connecting to large institutional databases. It does that very, very well. You can grab a copy of Visual Studio and in hours or days bang out a complex and customized database or database front end. Mac and Linux have nothing comparable. People who work with alpha numeric data really have no choice but to go with Windows.

      For that matter, it would probably be physically impossible for Apple to provide more than 20% of the worlds computers. Most people will always end up using some kind of open hardware system.

      I’m more interested in how we think about and talk about technology issues. Why have we accepted the market share explanation all these years without bothering to test it? Why have accepted even though no one has ever tried to quantify what the magic market share threshold is? Have we accepted the explanation only because we really have no choice but to use Windows if we want to keep the world running? Can we not accept that the world’s economy, governance and dialog is dependent on a flawed technology?

      If so, do we make the same mistake in other technological areas?

    15. Jonathan Says:

      If so, do we make the same mistake in other technological areas?

      Similar mistakes, I am sure.

      When I started using PCs in the ’80s, a VAX cost something like $200k. We were so happy to have access to sub-$10k computers that expanded our productivity several fold that we didn’t care about the obvious limitations and difficulty of use. I think that some of that attitude has carried forward with Windows even as the hardware and software have become many orders of magnitude more powerful and even cheaper. It just isn’t as good as it should be. When you think about it, if you were designing an OS UI from scratch, not having used a small computer before but having some sense of industrial design, there is no way that you would replicate today’s needlessly complex, unintuitive computer control interfaces (PC or Mac).

    16. Louis Wheeler Says:

      AC said:
      ““Mac OSX is based on FreeBSD UNIX which has been under attack on the internet for almost thirty years. ”

      Well, actually there’s based on.. and there’s based on. Conceptually, OS X is based on FreeBSD. OS X also borrows a lot of tools from FreeBSD. ”

      If Mac OSX is only, conceptually, based upon FreeBDS, how do you explain that Mac OSX is UNIX03 certified? There are many versions of Unix which aren’t UNIX03. Linux isn’t. You can download BSD and linux files, recompile and run them in Terminal application.

      From the viewpoint of the FOSS community, the Mac isn’t UNIX, but that is, merely, Linux bigotry.

      You are right in that Apple uses UNIX as a foundation for it GUI. But, that doesn’t keep many scientific users from utilizing it as a UNIX computer, though.

      “The operating system makes itself look very much like FreeBSD to user-level applications. But at it’s heart it is Carnegie-Mellon’s Mach micro-kernel, which Steve Jobs bought rights to when he started Next to boot-strap his NeXTStep OS. ”

      The idea was not to reinvent the wheel; Steve took the best thinking of the universities. Micro kernels were the fad back in the late 80’s. Apple’s modified kernel doesn’t do too badly on tests, even though it is utilized to favor its GUI, rather than optimized for Unix software. We could probably spend days discussing the differences (and benefits) between microkernels and monolithic Linux. But, let’s not. It is too rancorous a subject.

      “By the way, Apple _had_ to buy NeXTStep because Steve Jobs made it a requirement when he came back. ”

      I believe you have that backwards; the OS was the real draw. Apple could have bought BeOS, but it was too light weight and it wasn’t a finished product the way that NeXTstep and Openstep was.

      Steve Jobs seems more of an after thought. Apple was very close to going out of business in 1997, but It was in the process of correcting its mistakes. We can’t give Steve Jobs all the credit. Although, I believe he was very helpful in turning Apple around. Over half a year lapsed after NeXT was acquired, before he was placed in charge.

      “He was savvy enough to realize that it was a good starting point for a fully-multitasking OS capable of making use of virtual memory and other features that make a good OS.”

      NeXTstep was all that by 1993. The problem was that there was no opening for a new OS after 1995. Windows 95 sucked all the oxygen out of development.

      Meanwhile, Apple, repeatedly, tried and failed to develop a modern OS. Apple was better off going with a modern OS which actually worked. Even then, it took five years to turn NeXTstep into an OS which the Apple users and developers would tolerate.

      “Nobody expected the OS to be as resistant to external attack as it has been. It could be just luck and that Microsoft makes such a lovely, fat target.”

      If we could all be this lucky, we would be millionaires.

      The UNIX foundations under NeXTstep and Mac OSX, are pretty secure. They were a multi-user system designed for the internet.

      Windows is such a fat target because it was never designed to be Multi-user. It still isn’t. It is unclear, to me, what Microsoft plans to do to correct this long term security problem. It can’t turn Windows into a multi-user object oriented OS, without breaking all its applications.

      Microsoft must go through the same development hell which Mac OSX put Apple through. It is not yet settled that the bulk of Windows users, who are currently using Windows XP, will migrate to Windows Seven.

      “But in answer to the question “When will Mac users will face a sudden tsunami of self-propagating viruses and worms just like Windows’ users do?” ”

      I’ll believe it when I see it.

    17. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Jonathan, the price issue, between PC’s and Macs, is problematic. It is based on the assumption that all computers are equal in quality, durability, user serviceability, mean times to repair and customer satisfaction. They are not.

      Buying cheap is usually a bad bargain in any product. If you compare Name Brands computers, such as Dell or HP, which have comparable features to a Mac, the price is almost the same. If you are comparing a Mac to a White Box manufacturer, then it requires that you be an expert to determine if you are actually receiving a bargain.

      Studies of the Total Cost of Ownership of keeping a Mac or a PC for four years, is that a PC costs about three times more to maintain. Employees are more productive on Macs and have a more enjoyable user experience. That is why Apple has the highest user satisfaction rating in the industry.

      Mac users experience less aggravation than PC owners; how important is it to you to keep from cursing out your computer? Is peace of mind worth anything to you?

    18. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Jonathan, although there are Windows only applications, they are getting fewer in numbers every year as developers migrate their Apps.

      I’m sure you are aware that it is possible to run Windows on a Mac in a separate partition. Windows has been tested to run the fastest on Mac computers. It is safer too, since you can delete that partition, if unrecoverable malware hits you. You can reload the Windows OS from a Flash drive and be up again, quickly.

      So, if there are Windows applications which you must use, then you can have the best of both worlds.

      Usually, though, most of the people who expected to utilize Windows often, discover work arounds and substitutions so they can avoid Windows.

      There is a, month long, learning curve which people must go though on a Mac. But, once they have become acclimated, people tend to dislike using Windows for some reason.

    19. Mrs. Davis Says:

      if you were designing an OS UI from scratch, not having used a small computer before but having some sense of industrial design, there is no way that you would replicate today’s needlessly complex, unintuitive computer control interfaces (PC or Mac).

      iPad, not the maxiPad.

    20. Louis Wheeler Says:

      It’s all where computers started from, Mrs. Davis; the computer’s first users were hobbyists, geeks and business users. These people valued, or tolerated, complexity and difficulty well. It became a badge of honor.

      The problem is that this group is relatively few in numbers. If computers are to spread out to the wider public, it must be made ever easier to use. Yet, these same experts will decry this process. They repeatedly call easy-to-use computers to be a toy. Command line computing was for the real computer users, they said.

      I recently saw, on YouTube, a one year old baby controlling an iPhone. That would make it rather easy-to-use, wouldn’t you say? The iPad uses the same operating system. It should be cheap enough, fast enough and good enough to satisfy people who want to gain a Computer’s advantages and its access to the Internet, but without the complexity.

      If so, the iPad should to well with the 50% of Americans who do not use computers now. These people are notoriously non technical or anti-technological. They represent a computer market which neither Google nor the Wintel manufacturers can satisfy.

    21. PenGun Says:

      It’s not worth it to target a small part of the herd for botnets and noone runs mac servers, well almost no one, so … that’s why nobody cares about macs.

      They are about as difficult to hack as any *nix, probably a little easier but I have not tried so I’m guessing.

      It’s the FreeBSD part that keeps em’ relatively safe.

    22. warmi Says:

      “Studies of the Total Cost of Ownership of keeping a Mac or a PC for four years, is that a PC costs about three times more to maintain. Employees are more productive on Macs and have a more enjoyable user experience. That is why Apple has the highest user satisfaction rating in the industry.”

      The best study out there is that fact that 90%+ of companies out there are still running PCs instead of Macs.

    23. Shannon Love Says:

      Warm,

      The best study out there is that fact that 90%+ of companies out there are still running PCs instead of Macs.

      Heh. It’s true, the market is the best test there is.

      I think that is largely because of Windows database handling capabilities instead of the cost of the platform itself.

      Windows and Macs are not really directly comparable because they radically divergent design goals from the outset. Windows is designed to first and foremost to link into large institutional databases and everything else is secondary. Macs by contrast are designed for individualistic, decentralized computing. Schools, small businesses, professionals and freelancers. Macs place emphasis on the data the user creates and not there ability to access and manipulte data created by others.

      I really think this is why Macs are more secure. Thier design philosophy has always been that they will be used by individuals without immediate geek support. Windows by contrast is designed from the presumption that computer professional will be on hand.

      The cost of ownership studies are sound and they are used largely to refute the idea that Macs are like sportscars to the Windows sedan i.e. something only the upper income can afford. In reality, Macs are lifecycle cost competative with PCs in most cases. Of course, that assumes that the user is starting from scratch and doesn’t have to retrain or buy new software.

      And the killer is it wouldn’t matter if Macs were half the price because they don’t have the easy database intergration that Windows does. Until they do, or until database intergration moves to platform agnostic formats like the web, java or dot-Net, Macs won’t make a lot of inroads. Linux has the same problem.

      Even if that happens, most people will use something other than Macs because a single company can’t produce a majority of the computers in the world.

    24. John Says:

      Shannon,

      I’d like to hear more about this database integration issue. It is either something I haven’t noticed in 20 years or so of IT work, or I know it by another name.

      How does this advantage work? What technologies are you talking about here? Does Windows have some kind of built in query capability at the OS level?

      You’re not just talking about Access being Windows only and LotusNotes being nearly so are you?

      Thanks.

      John

    25. Shannon Love Says:

      John,

      I’d like to hear more about this database integration issue.

      Some examples. (1) The original IBM PC, from which all windows machines descend, was envisioned as a smart terminal to connect to IBM mainframes. From the beginning PC’s had software to make this possible. (2) DOS, which underlay Windows until IIRC 2000 made batch processing of alphanumeric data possible. You could chain apps together as you do on UNIX to flexibly perform complex task. (3) Windows machines began shipping standard with an OBCD implementation back in the early 1990’s. It did not ship standard on the Mac until 10.2 in 2003.

      Back in the 90’s, the PC advantage in database networking was definitive. I worked at Apple supporting Apple servers and networking and Apple’s low range server management just didn’t compare. Oh, they were easy to set up and manage but they couldn’t do things like put users in multiple logical groups and then assign permissions to a particular group. That made it cumbersome to manage user access in large scale environments. Macs had an edge in simple file servers but once you had hundreds of users and applications things broke down.

      I think the biggest advantage is Visual Basic which makes it quick and easy to bang out customized database front ends. There is nothing comparable on the Mac. Realbasic makes a good run but it does not compare to scope and depth of the Visual Basic ecosystem.

      This is not to mention the talent pool that exist for Windows database integration versus that for the Mac.

    26. Kevin Says:

      I think, relation to the original question, you might be overestimating the virus market. I do not think it has reached anywhere near saturation. Nor, from my (somewhat limited) professional exposure, do I think the number of original malware tool developers to be anywhere near the total level of deployed threats. Instead, what seems to be happening is that most malicious groups are taking their malware code either from modifying existing code sets, or from effectively criminal groups selling malware code.

      If this is the case, and if we have not yet reached real market saturation of the criminal enterprise, then most development is still done to target the richest rewards for the least effort. Botnets are low value; they don’t generate huge revenue. Getting access to a credit card database — there is real money. As long as 90%+ of businesses use Windows, and there any degree of increased difficulty with the other 10%, and we have not reached saturation, almost all truly new, criminal malware development work will target Windows. Especially when the later resell value of the code depends on the market size it can be used against.

      As such, I don’t think Max OS X is in more inherently secure than, for example, my favorite personal OS (FreeBSD). But I think it has significant market advantage at the moment, which it will continue to enjoy for some time.

      How long? I don’t know. But the change, when it comes, could be rather abrupt.

      My $0.02. I’ve been working in the field of network operations and internet security in one way or another for the last 15 years. Please take all of my opinions with the noted limitations that I have not done a detailed study or analysis of the topic; just my impression from accumulated exposure.

    27. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Warmi says”

      “The best study out there is that fact that 90%+ of companies out there are still running PCs instead of Macs.”

      Is there any reason that companies have to be smart?

      Besides, there are historical reasons for that market share. Microsoft Windows was the beneficiary of all the computers sold running DOS. That is all talking about the effects of history, What about today?

      Apple is showing 30% sales growth a year. It doesn’t take too many years of that to have a real effect on market share. If so, you will have to find a new rationale for disliking Macs.

    28. Louis Wheeler Says:

      Kevin said:
      “As such, I don’t think Max OS X is in more inherently secure than, for example, my favorite personal OS (FreeBSD). But I think it has significant market advantage at the moment, which it will continue to enjoy for some time.”

      Unix is a relatively secure OS; it has been under attack for forty years. Most of the flaws have been fixed long ago. Mac OSX is a Unix03 certified OS based, in part, on FreeBSD.

      The security problem on the Internet is Windows with almost all of the attacks.

      Security is a never ending problem, but ending the use of Windows computers would clean up the web. The Windows OS was never designed to be multiuser. It is a stand alone disk system. It cannot be fixed after the fact.

      http://rixstep.com/1/20100119,00.shtml

      Microsoft needs to start all over or put a hypervisor under Windows. Microsoft is unlikely to approve of either solution. The first breaks all their application and the second proclaims themselves to be incompetent. They would rather delude their customers into thinking that malware and antivirus software is just the price of running computers.

      Here is a bout a 17 year old bug in DOS which has been carried forward in every upgrade including windows 7. Yes, you can do DOS in Windows, now. Crazy.

      http://rixstep.com/1/20100120,00.shtml

    29. Purpleslog Says:

      FYI:

      Mac OSX descends from Next’s NextStep OS, not Free BSD (which started around 1993). NextStep is from well before 1993.

      DEC VMS operating was not Unix nor was it Unix like. I loved it anyways. I SysAdmin’d both.

      I do not know how much of VMS ended up Windows NT, but many of the low level systems parameters were the same, which I found quite amusing.

    30. tm Says:

      If macs ever get market share above single digits, worry then.

    31. Josh S Says:

      I think it comes down to one simple thing:

      Apps don’t demand root access. That’s a basic principle behind UNIX, one that Microsoft has scoffed at for years. When I switched to UNIX-based OSes a couple years ago, I was surprised at just how many changes that meant. Even if the sysadmin hasn’t installed some standard graphics library, I can put it in my home directory, link to it in my .bashrc file, and use it all I want without screwing up the main system. Because…

      Apps don’t demand root access.

    32. Roy Lofquist Says:

      From an old OS guy – I’m talking mid 60s. We (Xerox Data Systems – nee Scientific Data Systems) used a four ring security system – full access (root), read only, write and execute. In the early stages of Windows development Microsoft made the decision to include the DEC Alpha chip in its target machines. The Alpha had only two-ring security.

      The most common exploit for viruses etc. is buffer overrun – put executable code in an OS buffer then jump to it. The Windows OS does not guard against buffer overrun – efficiency, you know. It also does not protect against executing that code which is, by its nature, is in executive (root) mode.

      Hope this clears up some things.

    33. JB Says:

      Fell for that trap in 2007. I ended up spending 3 hours trying to figure out, uninstalling and deleting Symantec security files from a MBP. Been without it ever since.