Symantec says: No viruses for the Mac

by Todd Ogasawara

This past Tuesday was Patch Tuesday for Windows XP users like me. There were also a bunch of anti-spyware, anti-virus, and a bunch of other stuff that had me rebooting my Windows PCs a bunch of times over the past few days. So, with my Mac user hat on, I read the following Symantec web-article with great interest: Mac OS X: Viruses and Security that says (in part) Let's start with the hot-button issue of Mac OS X viruses. Simply put, at the time of writing this article, there are no file-infecting viruses that can infect Mac OS X.


David Buxton
2006-07-14 05:08:53
Experienced Macintosh users often forget to add the significant caveat: "Except for the thousands of macro viruses that can infect your Microsoft Office documents."

The distinction between an application and the operating system is no comfort after your work has been destroyed.

Kevin Buterbaugh
2006-07-14 06:02:34
Of course, David's comments assume that you're using Microsoft Office. I use NeoOffice instead and have never had a problem with M$ Office docs. I've also never had a virus of any sort on my Macs.

Bottom line: use a Mac, keep it updated via software update, don't install any M$ products on it, and turn on the built in firewall. Do those things and your chances of experiencing any of the problems that hundreds of thousands of Windows users experience *daily* are just about nil.

2006-07-14 07:31:01
Sorry, but it's just a matter of time. Apple still needs to tighten the security down and/or people have to get used to running as something other than admin. /Applications should really be root/wheel, not root/admin.

Kevin - that firewall (through the UI anyway) doesn't prevent outgoing traffic, so it's little extra protection. It's still a good idea, but it's not a panacea.

2006-07-14 10:13:03
As much as I like the "no-virus" status quo, I fear that bragging about it will only serve as a challenge.
On the other hand, I'm under the impression that a vast majority of the "viruses" today are stupid trojan horse executables that Windoze users simply MUST launch so that they can see the latest nudie photos of some tennis star.

As a side note, I work on both XP and OS X daily and recently made the switch to move from our old company file server (win2k) to a MacMini running Samba. I was just getting too frightened with the win2k (zonealarm) box being a simple target. Plus, ever tried editing that bloody registry to check which ports various software is trying to use! Maybe Vista will fix all this....
Roger Weeks
2006-07-14 11:38:20
Little Snitch ( is a great little ZoneAlarm-like program for OS X that alerts you to outgoing network traffic and lets you choose what do to with it based on source program and destination port.
kurt wismer
2006-07-14 14:05:27
the author of that symantec article did himself and others a disservice by stating there were no viruses for osx - one of the links he provides (the one to the write-up for osx/leap) clearly indicates that it's a file infecting virus that operates on osx...
Paul Howard
2006-07-14 20:24:01
Uh, Kurt?

Did you actually, you know...READ the paragraph surrounding the link you're citing??

Your reading comprehension skills simply cannot be that bad. NOBODY's reading comprehension skills could be that bad.

My three-year-old daughter just read your reply and said to me (I swear I'm not making this up), "But Daddy! The article clearly stated that LEAP.A was a relatively harmless worm, not a virus capable of causing wide-scale damage! There was even a link that explained the difference for clueless windoze-worshiping noobies! Why did the bad man say that LEAP.A was a virus?"

And then she started to cry. Thanks a lot, jerk.

James Bailey
2006-07-14 21:40:31
Rob--I've been hearing people make that prediction since OS X came out. Any day now the flood-gates will open and viruses will appear. Nothing so far. I guess 16 million users aren't enough incentive yet. Still, 10,000 Windows Vista beta users where enough, odd that.

Certainly Apple must keep up with security flaws and issues in their OS. And they do. Sometimes not quite as rapidly as we might like, but so far they seem to have evaded any issues at all. It is hard to question such success, at least for me.

Is it possible that a virus will appear for OS X? Of course it is possible but given that OS X has been around now for over 5 years and there is still not one, in the wild remote exploit, I think I can say that the risk is relatively low. I will take the risk of running OS X over any version of Windows without hesitation and run without any anti-virus applications as well.

kurt wismer
2006-07-15 00:23:44
uh, paul?

did you actually read the page he linked to? the symantec virus analysts say it infects files... todd woodward, although he works for symantec, is apparently not one of their virus analysts and apparently did not read what the virus analysts wrote otherwise he wouldn't be contradicting them... (if you google him you'll find that todd woodward is a product support analyst at symantec)

i did read what he said about the difference between viruses and worms, i also happen to know something can be a virus and a worm at the same time...

and just to clear something up, it's actually the worms (not the viruses) that cause widespread damage - it's the worms that spread from computer to computer rather than just from file to file within a single computer...