Symantec quits beating the 'OS X malware' drum

Symantec quits beating the 'OS X malware' drum

Summary: The latest Internet Threat Survey from Symantec is a whopping 120 pages and no mention of malware for Apple's OS X.


The latest Internet Threat Survey from Symantec is a whopping 120 pages and unlike in its previous reports, the company has avoided any mention of malware for Apple's OS X.

Around 18 months ago, Symantec's seventh bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report warned Apple users that OS X was increasingly becoming a target for spyware.

At the time, Symantec said: "Out of the public eye for some time, it is now clear that the Mac OS is increasingly becoming a target for the malicious activity that is more commonly associated with Microsoft and various Unix-based operating systems".

However, since then, apart from Leap-A or the Oompa-Loompa virus, Mac users have enjoyed a seemingly uneventful time when it comes to malware. Of course Apple has, deservedly, been slated for its hardware troubles but that is another issue entirely.

In Symantec's latest report, which was published on Tuesday, the company talked about vulnerabilities in various browsers as well as the amount of time it took OS vendors to release patches. But there is no mention of spyware or Trojans targeting Apple's platform.

Symantec does say there was "evidence" of security researchers turning their attention to OS X.

"During this reporting period, 12 vulnerabilities were disclosed that affected Apple Safari. This is double the six reported in the second half of 2005 and triple the four that were disclosed in the first half of 2005. The sharp increase in the number of Apple Safari vulnerabilities over the past 12 months offers evidence that security researchers are increasingly turning their attention to Mac OS X."

So criminals, hackers and malware authors seem to be ignoring OS X but it is being inspected by researchers. I must confess, that makes me feel safer. I'd rather security researchers look for potential flaws than miscreants.

So what happened to the threat of Mac spyware? Has it gone? Have we been infected without knowing about it? Or is it simply not worth mentioning this time around?

It's a surprise really -- especially with MacBook and MacBook Pro sales booming, it would seem that Apple's platform has never been such an attractive target.

I have asked Symantec about the omission and am waiting for a response.

Click here for an update.

Topics: Symantec, Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Security

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • Munir Exposed!

    "You know Munir is royally pissed off about this; he must have been salivating like a rabid dog for this report, so he could concoct yet another BS "Mac OS X security threat" piffle (see related articles below). Then the damned thing shows up and has nothing in it about Mac OS X malware threats! (Symantec probably figured out that we're not buying from the company that cries wolf so often.) It's very easy to believe that Munir got on the horn immediately to Symantec about this so-called "omission." Too bad, Munir, no FUD for you this time. So, wipe the spittle off your chin, sit down, and shut up for once, you talentless hack."
  • Symantec lack of OSX malware

    Boy, anxiously awaiting their reply to your request for more info for the huge log of obvious OSX malware.... please get that online as soon as you get it. We can't wait.

    By "We", I mean, "We OSX users who all have never have had a single instance of malware, virus, worm, or general attack." I'm sure there are ways of getting bad things to happen to OSX, like any OS, but even if we had 1/100 of what Windows has, (instead of zero!) we'd still be able to tout this attribute that OSX simple works and is safe. No better argument than real data. 'nuff said.
  • OS X is far more secure than Windows

    <i>It's a surprise really -- especially with MacBook and MacBook Pro sales booming, it would seem that Apple's platform has never been such an attractive target.<\i>

    What is the surprise here? Is OS X without security flaws? No. Is OS X inherently more secure than Windows? Yes!

    OS X's security in depth makes it much harder to compromise a Mac. While OS X security flaws are continually being uncovered (and fixed), there are enough layers of safe guards in place that usually make these exploits theoretical at best.

    Network security was added to Windows as an after thought. Contrast this to OS X which is based on Unix, in which network security was designed in from the start.

    Why is it that Microsoft is incorporating into Vista security features such as UAC which have been in Mac OS X for years? Because they improve security!

    Why have there been NO documented exploits of OS X in the wild in contrast to tens of thousands of exploits for Windows? (Hint: it is not due to security through obscurity.)
  • No Mac Malware Reported, Why would you be upset about that?

    Did it ever occur to you that the Symantec report doesn't contain any mention of trojans, spyware, or other malware affecting Mac OS X simply because at the time that the report was generated, that there wasn't any?

    Does that mean that Mac OS X is invulnerable or that Mac users shouldn't use common sense in securing their Macs? No, of course not. It just means that unlike the various flavors of Windows, the Mac OS is not currently threatened by malware.

    Personally I find this Symantec report refreshingly honest, unlike previous reports that unncessarily cried wolf, claiming that the threat of Mac OS X being inundated with malware was imminent. I also fail to understand why you woud be personally upset about this particular aspect of the report, unless of course you're an envious Windows user with a bigotted axe to grind.
  • MDN exposed?

    see update to blog