1.1. Mac Security: Myth versus Fact

"Macs don't get viruses."

This belief, along with countless other notions about Mac security, has found its way into popular thinking in recent years. But it sounds too good to be true, and smart users are rightly circumspect about such claims.

In fact, statements like this contain kernels of truth. But make no mistake about it: Macs are nothing more or less than powerful, complex computers; thus, they're subject to all the same security concerns as other computers, regardless of what operating system they run.

Let's look at a few areas in which the Mac is reputed to have particularly good security and see how perception compares to reality, beginning with what is perhaps the most commonly heard question.

1.1.1. Is it true that Macs don't get viruses?

As of late 2009, the total number of viruses that run natively on Mac OS X and are known to have propagated in the wild is zero. You read that right: zero.

However, this seemingly miraculous number requires considerable qualification.

First, when I say virus, I mean something quite specific: a self-replicating, self-propagating program that's generally invisible and intended to cause mischief of some sort. In ordinary conversation, all sorts of other malware — malicious software, such as worms, Trojan horses, keystroke loggers, and root kits — are lumped under the virus heading, even though technically such programs are nothing of the sort. Some of this other malware does indeed infect computers ...

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