Friday, May 28th, 2010

AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd warns that Apple Macs running the OS X operating system, or some flavour of Linux distribution, are not immune to viruses, malware and other forms of Internet-carried spambots, Trojans, hacking and phishing.

That’s right, Apple Macs running the OS X operating system, or some flavour of Linux distribution, are open to attack from cyber criminals.

Now of course hackers and spammers are not stupid and they know that Windows users represent the 'low hanging fruit' in terms of potential targets. The sheer weight of numbers that the Windows’ user base carries with it makes it the primary target for malware attacks – and it's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

“But,” Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager, AVG (AU/NZ), says: “The web changes everything. More specifically, web services, social media and online applications change everything.

“Suddenly you are operating one step further away from your Mac's desktop and you are at the mercy of live real-time contact from third parties and the World Wide Web in general. This levels the playing field in some senses, so that suddenly your Mac is not a Mac for a moment – instead it's just a computer.”

With the growing popularity of web services from Twitter and Facebook and so on, the opportunity to spread malware hidden in a simple link has, arguably, never been greater. Because of this, AVG has been working on porting its Anti-Virus products to the Apple Mac OS X format for the last two to three years. AVG’s security software solutions for Linux have already helped it in that regard.

So Mac’s do have vulnerabilities and people should be increasingly aware of browser security concerns. Without identifying specific security holes in Safari or Opera (or Firefox for that matter), AVG contends the operating system is no longer the primary target for Internet-driven user attacks by cyber criminals. The target is the application itself and the user's behaviour within it.

Apple's popularity is growing all the time even if its market share is still somewhere around less than 10 percent globally. Just this year security researchers found eight fresh zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple’s Safari browser.

“What matters most is that viral attacks are constantly evolving and looking for fresh blood,” Borrett continued. “So, everyone needs to think about Internet security protection. It's as simple as that.”

Technical Facts
Looking objectively at the Mac operating system and tools, there is arguably a larger total surface area of code open to potential attack.

Combining rich use of Flash and Java with support for multiple file formats does not exactly put up extra barriers. Digging deeper, Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR) has been around since Windows Vista as an anti-exploitation technology, yet it is only present in Mac OS X 10.5 in some library offsets and therefore does not offer complete protection in the way that the technology was designed.

Borrett concludes: “So Apple Mac, Windows or Linux, the fact is that regardless of the operating system each of us is using, we're all in this together. Everyone needs to be aware of what they are clicking on and use their commonsense – if something doesn’t look quite right, it probably isn’t!”

AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at

The Australian Government web site Stay Smart Online also contains some useful advice for protecting yourself from Internet threats at: You can also sign up for its free Cyber Security Alert Service.

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AVG, Apple Mac, Internet security, phishing, anti-virus, hacking



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