For security, you can't beat Mac OS X

Summary:Is Mac OS X more "malware resistant" than Windows and Linux or is the market share too small for hackers to bother with? Does fewer patches for Mac mean increased productivity?

Today I came across a very interesting post over by Marius van Oers on McAfee's Avert Labs blog which looks at the malware count for Windows, Linux and Mac platforms:

Today we know of over 236,000 malicious malware items. These are mostly meant for the MS-Windows environment. Only about 700 are meant for the various Unix/Linux distributions. Current known Mac OSX malware count is even less with 7, so pretty much non-existent at the moment.

Let's take a second or two to digest those numbers.236,000 v. 700 v. 7 – no matter what way you cut those numbers, that means a lot of Windows-based malware seeking out new hosts and almost none targeting Mac OS X users.  I'm not sure if this makes Mac users feel smug about their operating system, but it certainly gives them a lot less to worry about, which has got to be a nice feeling.

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But here's the pivotal question - is the Mac OS X platform "malware resistant" or is the install base just too small for hackers to bother with the platform?  Here's what von Oers thinks:

"... it is clear that OSX malware is not taking off yet. With an estimated OSX marketshare of about 5 % on the desktop systems one would expect to see more malware for OSX."

That hints that OS X might be a tough nut for hackers to crack (although the Month of Apple project might suggest otherwise) and that this is keeping malware under control.

Now all this has got to be compelling for those who just want to get on and use their hardware.  What I find is that on my Windows-based notebooks there are always updates to come in and be installed - Windows Updates, antivirus and firewall updates, applications updates ... the list goes on.  What I noticed when I had the MacBook Pro was that I could just flip the lip and immediately start working without all those update distractions. Sure, there were occasional updates from Apple and for Firefox, but given the negligible attention being paid to the platform by hackers, few of the updates felt at all urgent.  This in turn has to have a positive effect on productivity (or at least it did for me).  Apple also tends to bundle a huge number of fixes into a single download, which makes the patch seems smaller.  Compare this to Windows where almost every update feels critical and time has to be set aside at startup to applying patches and then rebooting.  This isn't good for productivity – or stress levels.

On a side note, I think that it's odd that Apple are marketing the under the unique selling point of not being an office (why have an office tool in the home sort of thing).  There's a potential for an identity crisis here in the future if Apple isn't careful. 

Thoughts?  Is security the main selling point of the Mac OS (especially among professionals)?  If you are a Mac user, do you feel that the additional cost of the hardware is offset by the time you later save having to administer software updates and patches?  Does your Mac make you more productive?

Topics: Apple

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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