The idiom that Macs are immune to viruses is something we’ve all heard. But is it true? Do Macs really have the ability to surf the same web as PCs, open the same files and perform the same tasks without sacrificing their health?
The simple answer is no. The Mac computers we’ve all come to know and love are not an impenetrable force when it comes to viruses. But they are prone to a lot few viruses than their Microsoft counterparts. So are Macs actually safer or is this just misconception spread by Mac-fanatics?
First of all, it’s important to understand just what a virus is and what it does. The same thing as a bacterial virus that affects us as humans causing cold and flu, a computer virus does the same, digitally speaking, to a computer. The first virus ever launched was in the early 1980s. The virus, called Brain, was designed by a company to destroy illegal copies of their own software. But as viruses do, it quickly took on a life of it’s own and began taking over more than it was designed to. This feature is what caught the eye of the malicious hackers, who have now taken the creation and implementation of these viruses to a whole new level.
Viruses are designed and disguised as programs or software for your computer. They essentially insert themselves into the coding of a program meaning that each time the program is run that virus comes to life. Once one computer is successfully infected, the virus will aim to infect other computers, and with the Internet where it is today that makes viruses a scary reality.
So why are Macs so seemingly less susceptible to viruses than PCs?
The first reason is the Market Share Theory, the idea that there just aren’t as many Macs out there as PCs. Viruses are designed either to affect PCs or Macs, but they aren’t interchangeable. Meaning a Mac computer isn’t affected by a PC virus and vice versa. Hackers looking to exploit computers are looking for the larger market which currently is Microsoft Windows. Though, with the huge upsurge of Apple products I would wonder if this isn’t starting to change.
The second reason is due to the Mac operating system. Mac OS X is run on a UNIX foundation, which is a more robust operating system than Microsoft Windows uses. The UNIX system works to prevents the unauthorized execution of software while the Windows operating system will essentially try to run a program in any way it can even if it is being directed to do so by the virus itself.
So Macs aren’t necessarily safer, just less prone to viruses. But there are ways to protect your Apple. The easiest way is by simply being conscious of what you’re surfing or downloading from the Internet. Most Malware comes in the form of Trojan Horses, one thing disguised as something else. These are commonly seen in spam type emails or pop-up ads. But if you’re careful about what you click on and avoid those you’re unsure about your Mac should be relatively safe. The second way to protect your Mac is anti-virus software, the same as those designed to PCs to stop virus getting in. Currently, most Macs don’t run anti-virus software and don’t have problems, but if you’re someone who is a heavy downloader, anti-virus software may be a smart idea. And though it can be pricey, just like Windows anti-virus software, it can save you a lot of headache in the long run.