Your Mac Isn't As Safe As You Think

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Having finally come to terms with the weaknesses in its operating system, Apple is turning to the security company Kaspersky Lab to point out vulnerabilities and offer advice on how to fix them. This might come as a surprise to Mac users, since Apple's computers are famous for being virus-free, but hackers are taking note as more and more people have switched from PC to Mac. And Kaspersky says that Apple needs to pony up to the task of protecting its users, according to Computing's Stuart Sumner.

Apple's security shortcomings have a bit of a history. Discussing the new relationship in an interview on Monday, Kaspersky CTO Nikoilai Grebennikov explained, "Our first investigations show Apple doesn't pay enough attention to security. For example, Oracle closed a vulnerability in Java, which was a target for a major botnet several months ago." That botnet is the infamous Flashback virus that struck 600,000 computers last month. Per The New York Times' Nicole Perlroth, that was the largest ever attack on Apple's OS X, and users didn't even have to download anything to get the virus. Though Apple released two security patches to remove the malware, another version -- this one was untraceable -- popped up and started infecting computers two weeks later.  "This botnet, which the security community identified, is a huge sign that Apple's security model isn't perfect," Grebennikov told Computing.

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The vulnerabilities don't stop there. Last year, another widespread virus attack targeted Mac users. This time, The Times' Nick Bilton reports, websites would invite users to download the antivirus software Mac Defender to protect their computer, but instead, the software stole credit card numbers and passwords. Ironic, huh? Mac Defender would also open porn websites in the user's Web browser every few minutes. Like it did with the Flashback virus, Apple released a software update with a security patch, but for some users, the damage had already been done.

For now, Macs still aren't the virus magnet that PCs are, but if what Kaspersky says is true, that won't last very long. As Apple increases its market share, hackers will be more and more likely to target its computers with viruses and malware. And it's not just computers. Users' iPhones and iPads will be a target before long, says Kaspersky: "Our experience tells us that in the near future, perhaps in a year or so, we will see the first malware targeting iOS." Maybe you should install that antivirus software after all.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.