One of Apple computers' key selling points—besides their cultishness, their coolness, etc., etc.,—has been their resistance to viruses. Mac hardware is "built on the world's most advanced operating system," the company's site declares; and part of that system's sophistication, Apple has emphasized, has been an exceptionally strong immune system. PCs, Mac marketing has suggested, shun OJ and shirk on sleep and could probably stand to wash their hands a little more often; Mac machines, on the other hand, are effectively impervious to malware.
Well, were. Back in April, the Flashback botnet struck more than 600,000 Mac computers worldwide, with more than 300,000 of the machines affected in the U.S. Hackers searching for user information—passwords, financial account numbers—took advantage of a weakness in Java programs to gain access to Mac users' machines. Nearly 300 of April's Flashback attacks were aimed at Apple computers that were based in Cupertino itself.
In the wake of that attack, Apple is downgrading its antiviral swagger. On the company's site, its former, blunt message—"it doesn't get PC viruses" -- has been replaced by a more generic boast: "It's built to be safe." And the slogan of the past—"Safeguard your data. By doing nothing."—has been replaced by the much gentler "Safety. Built in."
Which is on the one hand just a simple change in marketing language, but on the other the end of an era. The end, in particular, of an era in which Apple users were niche users—and in which consumers at large had the ability to be, should they choose, relatively carefree. Mac has now reached critical mass. And as more and more of our information makes its way to our machines, safeguarding data "by doing nothing" is no longer a blanket option, for Apple users or anyone else. Now, the best our computer companies can do is assure us that their devices are "built to"—but just built to—"be safe."
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