Are Macs immune to viruses?

6 October 2016 by Mark Williams

So, are Apple devices and Macs immune to viruses? Short answer: no. Then why do so many people believe that they are? Let’s break it down.

Viruses are always written for a specific platform. A virus written for Windows can only run on a Windows machine. Now consider that the aim of a computer virus is to spread to as many other machines as possible, much like the common cold spreads through the population when we hit winter.

Attackers are obviously going to most often target the platform that the majority of people use in order to get the best return from their attack. And that platform happens to be Windows.

Security through minority

Up until recently, criminals considered Macs a less attractive target because they weren’t in use nearly as much as Windows. In 2011, the MacOS X accounted for barely more than five percent of the market share, compared to Windows XP’s 35 percent.

This gave Macs ‘security through minority’. Attackers didn’t bother attacking them because there weren’t enough potential victims to make it worth their while.

The fact is, Macs aren’t immune to viruses just the same way that someone who doesn’t leave the house isn’t immune to getting a cold – they’re just less exposed to the threat.

The changing landscape

Though Windows operating systems still dominate the market share, MacOS has become more popular, especially seeing as big businesses like Google are now predominantly using Macs in their offices.

As more and more businesses choose Macs OS, the more appealing they become as a target for viruses. Recent years have seen some rather nasty viruses and malware attacking Macs, exploiting the false sense of security so many people hold.

So, no, Macs are not immune to viruses. And as they become more popular it will become ever more apparent just how dangerous this myth is. If you're a Mac user or your employees use them in your business, it’s better to install anti-virus software than it is to rely on blind faith.

After all, are you willing to risk your data on the hope that the odds remain ever in your favour?

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