back to article Apple anti-virus advice was nothing new

One of the more famous Get a Mac ads boasted that Apple systems, unlike Windows boxes, didn't need anti-virus software. So when an article on an Apple support site encouraged the use of anti-virus software on Macs it seemed like news. In truth the article reiterated long-standing, though little publicised, advice from Apple. …


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  1. Andy


    "One of the more famous Get a Mac ads boasted that Apple systems, unlike Windows boxes, didn't need anti-virus software."

    Actually, if you watch that link, it doesn't say anything of the sort. Just the entirely true statement that there were 114,000 known viruses for PCs, and not for Macs...

    Kudos for this, though: "On Tuesday, along with world+dog, we inaccurately reported that Apple had changed its stance on the use of antivirus." I don't think I can remember El Reg admitting to mistakes at all in recent times!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "we are as inept as everyone else, bully for us!"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple oops...

    I'm afraid that whether or not the tech document cited by Krebs represents a change of stance, Apple clearly regret it being so widely publicised. The document has been pulled and, according to the BBC, have said that it was inaccurate because "The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box." It looks to me as if they've decided to put marketing ahead of customer security. Not that Mac users face anything like the volume of threats that Windows users do, but the assertion that Macs are intrinsically secure out-of-the-box is at best debatable.

  4. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Numero Uno

    "I don't think I can remember El Reg admitting to mistakes at all in recent times!" Ergo they don't make mistakes recently?

  5. Robert Simmons

    Update: Apple have removed the article


  6. Pierre
    Thumb Up

    At long last...

    May this end the "macs are inherently secure" nonsense continuously spouted by zealous fanbuoys... unlikely to happen before an eon or two unfortunately, because clueless fanbuoys are, well, clueless.

  7. Daniel B.

    MacOS always had virus

    Am I the only one to remember that there have been virus progs for the Mac since its introduction? I recall the SAM antivirus (Symantec's Mac AV) as far back as the System Software 5 days, on our Mac Plus (circa 1986). Of course, there were about 11 on the list; at least 3 of them had some kind of H2G2 joke (they used MacTalk to make the Mac say "DON'T PANIC") and were mostly harmless.

    I do also remember losing all my data sometime around 1992 to a Mac virus as well. 88 Mb's of data, in fact. So anyone thinking the Mac is inherently secure is really deluded.

  8. Robert Moore

    Mac Security

    As an ex Mac hater who has come over to the dark side. I would like to point out the by default you are warned before running for the first time any program you download off the internet. The you are asked for your password before it can install anything.

    This is the password that you are required to enter when setting up your account. IIRC you can enter a blank password, but it will carefully explain why this is a bad idea.

    Over all, not a bad compromise between security and usability.

    Mine it the flame proof coat.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    more FUD from Sophos

    Their article waffles on about malware taking over your mac. Oooh scary! Not. Unless you're stupid enough to run your browser at root level or have it setuid root the only thing malware loaded off a website can do is mess up your home directory and settings. Its about time the virus companies realised that unix != windows and they're not going to be able to play the same scare-the-children games as they can with windows users.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    How many... suites are Apple going to be facing ten minutes after the first real virus hits Mac machines. They are wide open with such a sweeping statement. I'll go out & buy a machine just to sue them.

  11. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    One reason I won't get a Mac.

    Actually one of the reasons I won't get a Mac. I like full disclosure from my companies. Apple loves not having full disclosure, and in fact massive spin control. Something like publishing this article, and instead of just adding a note (or update) saying it's inaccurate or whatever, just pulling the article and pretending it never existed. Look on Dell's forum, it has complaints with people trying to solve them (usually successfully). Look at Apple's forums. If there's a problem with a product there'll be people trying to solve it for a few days until someone from Apple comes by and pulls the threads. Not a sticky saying "here's how to solve this", just no more thread. So if you happen to miss it for the few days its up, and your mac has the same problem, you won't be able to know what's wrong purely through research. They've gone as far as telling third-party sites they can't discuss certain things, and trying to legally bully them into doing it.

    No thanks!

  12. Andy
    Paris Hilton


    I can't fault your logic there! No, wait... :)

  13. NoCo37
    Dead Vulture

    Good form

    Good form El Reg! I don't think I've seen a retraction from you ever, but it is nice to know that you can do it when needed.

  14. E Haines

    @Daniel B

    Mac OS X != Mac Classic. They are different and incompatible operating systems. The old MacOS had very little security, and indeed had viruses. It's also completely dead and hardly anyone uses it anymore. So it has nothing to do with OS X, which is in fact inherently much more secure.

  15. Edward

    @Daniel B. - OS X virus versus Mac Classic virus

    Mac OS X, introduced in 2001, is a completely different OS than the classic Macintosh OS. The Classic OS did have a few viruses. I have yet to hear of a native Mac OS X virus.

    In general, it is good to exercise caution. However, Norton Anti-Virus, for example, has been known to cause crashes (along with loss of data) by itself. Thus, it really is open to debate whether an OS X mac is safer with or without software to protect against viruses that are not yet known to exist.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple used to give Virex away with .mac subscriptions

    although this came to a halt when it became apparent that Virex caused way more problems than it solved...

    @ Robert Moore

    Indeed, though I would personally prefer it if Setup Assistant, once it's gone through setting up your admin account, then went on to ask you to set up a user account to actually use day-to-day. Nobody should be running with admin privileges at all times on a well-designed OS.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    @Daniel B.

    > Am I the only one to remember that there have been virus progs for the Mac since its introduction?

    Probably not - but you seem to be the only one who has forgotten that Macs have been running Mac OS X for the last 9 years, and it is a COMPLETELY different, totally rewritten OS to System 6, System 7, Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 before it.

    There were a few Mac viruses before Mac OS X.

    However, it is the UNIX-based Mac OS X that is "inherently more secure" than Windows and previous Mac OS's. That's why, in nine years there hasn't been a single OS X virus outbreak. (Proof-of-concept trojans, yes, but viruses, No).

  18. Eddie Johnson
    Jobs Horns


    If they *didn't* change their story then the aforementioned ad was false advertising. You don't get to have it both ways Steve.

    (Waiting for a class action suit requiring Apple to pay $39.95 to every person who bought a Mac in the year following the misleading ad)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @the replies to Daniel B

    If it says Mac it is Mac.

    IIRC the Apple fanbois *still* tar Windows security with NT4 flaws so I am with Daniel B in that as I remember using SAM on Apple Macs back in the late 80's early 90s, in my limited understanding of computing, means AV for Apple Macintosh computers is not fucking new by a fucking long fucking country fucking mile.

  20. David Foley
    Thumb Up

    Of course a Mac needs Anti-Virus

    how else are you going to sanitize your buddies' PC's ? By far the easiest way to begin cleanup on an "owned" PC (of which there seem to be an awful lot these days) is to pull the hard drive, plug it into an external drive adapter, mount it on the Mac, and run ClamXav on it. I am not a PC repair professional, but I've done this three times in just the last week for friends and family whose PC's have digressed to near uselessness. Follow that up with a regimen of a decent (AVG or Avast!) AV package, a good Anti-Spyware (Spybot S&D or Spyware Assassin) and CCleaner on the PC and a few lessons for the owner and it has a chance of getting and staying clean and sober until next week at least.

  21. Ted Treen
    Jobs Halo


    Congratulations, old son. The concise erudite way in which your comment is expressed earns my utmost admiration.

    Upon the assumption that your grasp of computing is as great as your grasp of the English language, I have decided just how much consideration your comment merits.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box."

    So is windows (you lot may hate to hear) but since most windows uss run as admin, install anything and in the case of vista turn off teh technologies like UAC they get infected. If teh general masses move to mac the same will happen

  23. Player_16
    Gates Horns

    @@the replies to Daniel B

    If it says Mac, it is Mac !!

    At last count, (and this is a rough guess) it was 32... in total!! The biggest I think was the Quicktime virus. Talk about noise on the net when that was out. Yes OS X is a different beast from OS 9 and before but one thing is for certain; if you put a OS 10.5 person in front of a OS 5 machine, they would snort and in just a couple of minutes they would be fairly competent at knowing their way around the machine. Just the basics.

    Put a Vista or XP person in front of Windows 3.1 ...

    Let the fun begin!!


  24. Anonymous Coward

    @Henry Wertz

    If you don't own/work with macs, what are you doing on the mac forums. Obviously you are perfectly entitled to be there, but why would you want to if you don't like Apple?

    Oh, penny has just dropped. *Please* don't flame me...

  25. William Old

    Sophos and their disreputable marketing scam

    I was very, very disappointed to see a respected company such as Sophos being a party to the promotion of continued misunderstanding of key concepts in computer security.

    Whilst precise technical definitions are not necessarily important for end-users, that is not an excuse for the use of imprecise language when discussing specific security issues, and I note that Cluley's article (hotlinked from this story) is very careful to avoid stating that Mac viruses do or do not exist - he refers to Mac "malware" and Mac "threats", but keeps referring to "anti-virus software" to address these. No. It's bad enough that the uninformed seize upon the existence of ClamAV and the like to bleat that "there must be Linux viruses because anti-virus software exists for Linux" (we can't stop people from demonstrating the extent of their ignorance), but it's shameful that he is attempting to promote Sophos anti-virus and anti-malware products by leveraging that ignorance.

    By all means he can promote his company's security products for the Mac, and there's no objection to them calling it "anti-malware" and/or "anti-spyware" software. But it's not "anti-virus" software unless, like ClamAV, it's software for dealing with Windows viruses that happen to reside for whatever reason on a Mac platform, in the same way that my Linux servers deal with Windows viruses being sent through my Exim MTA, destined for Windows-using end users.

    Quite frankly, it's about time that Trading Standards officers or the Advertising Standards Authority prosecuted Sophos for misleading anyone who buys "Sophos anti-virus for Linux" in consequence of the belief that Linux can be infected by a virus. Or have they successfully claimed the cash prize offered by Eddie Bleasedale's NetProject Limited to anyone who can successfully infect one of their properly-configured Linux boxes with a virus - i.e. malware that is self-replicating, the key criterion for software to be classified as a virus?

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