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In the past, it was often assumed that Macs were safer than PCs and less vulnerable to various types of online threats. However, the rising popularity of Mac operating systems in recent years has made them a prime target for cybercriminals and Macs have subsequently fallen prey to a number of viruses, malware and other web threats. In just the past few years, Mac users have endured a ceaseless stream of new threats, just a few of which include the Flashfake botnet, the Koobface worm and Mac Defender malware. In addition to these newfound threats, Mac users also face perennial risks from phishing scams, spam and other types of web threats of virtually every kind.
The truth is that both Macs and PCs are very vulnerable to web threats and cyber-attacks. Users of both operating systems should take the necessary steps to ensure that their systems are protected immediately, as the risk of malware and other web threats continue unabated year after year.
To a certain extent, the level of security you enjoy will depend on the version of Mac OS X or Windows OS you’re running. For a meaningful comparison, it’s best to consider how the very latest – and fully patched – versions of each operating system compare with each other.
Currently, it’s true that there are fewer malware programs that are targeting Mac OS X – versus Windows. However, that doesn’t mean that Macs are totally secure. Estimates suggest that 700,000 Mac OS X users suffered from the Flashback Trojan virus. Users that had believed they didn’t need antivirus software – because they were Mac users – found that their false sense of security offered no defence against the attack.
When assessing levels of security – and the extent of damage and inconvenience that can be caused by an infection – it’s not just a question of how many malware items are targeting each platform. The speed with which manufacturers respond to problems can play a major role in the user’s overall experience.
Apple's patch for the vulnerabilities exploited by Flashback took almost 50 days to be ready for distribution to Mac OS X users – and it was only available for users that were running OS X Snow Leopard and OS X Lion. This led to some people arguing that when a vulnerability is exploited by malware – and there’s a significant delay in obtaining a patch – this can have a very negative effect on the perceived level and effectiveness of security.
Thus, even though there are fewer malicious programs targeting Mac OS X, many Mac users now accept that they need to be much better prepared than previously. Just as PC users have done for many years, Mac users are now taking steps to bolster the security of their computers and are installing anti-malware products.
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