Is Mac still the safer bet?

If my hardware 2.0 email inbox is any barometer to go by, some people are starting to question their decision to switch to Mac.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

If my hardware 2.0 email inbox is any barometer to go by, some people are starting to question their decision to switch to Mac. Here's an email from Jenny that is typical of a few dozen I've had over the past few days:

The other day I came across a news item that said that there are now viruses that affect Mac. I moved from Windows over to Apple because I DIDN'T want to have to deal with antivirus, firewalls and stuff but I'm now starting to get the impression that I'm back and square one having to deal with this stuff, only on my Mac.

I'd appreciate it if you could answer me one question -- is Mac still the safer bet?

This is a tough question for me to answer without making people's blood boil, and believe it or not, that's not something I want to do (especially when it comes to security). That said, here's my take ...

[poll id="420"]

We have to be careful when discussing the relative malware-resistance of different platforms because it's easy to let superiority bias creep in. For example, I've been running on the Windows platform for years, and I manage dozens of Windows boxes right now. All my systems are, and have always been, malware free.  But I've also seen Windows boxes that had malware in spades.

The facts as I see them are that there's far more malware that's targeted at Windows users than any other platform. But that's not the whole story because there's a whole lot more to take into consideration, such as market share, user patterns, specific OS vulnerabilities and applications vulnerabilities.

Malware targeting Mac, especially malware that relies on user's bad habits (such as downloading warez) it not all that unexpected nowadays, especially given Apple's increasing market share. Cyber-criminals follow the money, and Mac users are now seen as worth putting in their sights (in part this is down to so many new Mac users having migrated from Windows).

Is Mac still the safer bet? It depends. If you're happy securing Windows, and do things with your brain engaged (be careful what sites you visit, what you download, and what you run) then there's nothing wrong with Windows. But if these hassles aren't for you, or you just want to be free (or freer) from having to always keep security in the forefront of your mind, then Mac (or Linux ...) is for you. This current bit of malware won't be the last bit to target Mac, and it's likely that Mac users will increasingly need to think about security, for now Mac is still the safer bet.

Before I close, one more point. I'm not suggesting for one minute that people shift to Mac because it's more resistant to malware. I'd suggest that people thinking about making the shift think carefully about the implications and what might be involved in making the shift. It might be easier to learn how to secure your Windows box and taking sensible precautions against allowing the hackers into your digital kingdom.

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