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Mac users' indifference toward security 'worrying'

Consumers not paying attention to growing threats to Apple's Mac platform, leading security vendors to warn such mindset "worrying" and industry needs to do more to educate them of risks.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

In light of the recent spate of malware attacking Apple's Mac OS, consumers remain oblivious to the threat and consider the operating system "impenetrable". This, in turn, has security observers worrying that such mindsets will invite more attacks on the platform.

Last month, the Flashback malware, which exploits a security flaw in Java to install itself on Mac OS devices, was discovered and more than 550,000 Macs were controlled by the malware at one point. That same month, Kaspersky Labs expert, Costin Riau, revealed that another malware--the Sabpab backdoor Trojan--was released into the wild and exploits the same Java vulnerability as Flashback.

However, Mac users ZDNet Asia spoke to expressed indifference toward the worsening security climate for the operating system and the need for antivirus safeguards.

One user Thomas Chee found the idea of using antivirus for his Mac device "ludicrous" as he regarded the brand as "the most secure ever", while another consumer, Tan Pei Qian, said installing an antivirus would be a "waste of her time".

"I trust the technicalities of the Mac will protect me from all viruses and malware," she said.

Jasper Tan, too, believes his Mac to be "impenetrable". "I've not heard of anyone being affected by the viruses yet, so I don't feel the need to install any form of protection," he said.

Indifference is "worrying"
Commenting on the consumers' indifference, Ashar Aziz, founder and CEO of security vendor FireEye, said people have yet to realize that the Mac OS is not immune to viruses or malicious software. Even though Mac's market share is still very low compared with Microsoft's Windows, it is big enough to be appealing to cybercriminals, he stated.

"The truth is, like any other platform, Mac has always been susceptible to viruses and other security threats. The only difference is that it is increasingly being targeted now more than ever before," Aziz added.

Luis Corrons, technical director of Panda Security's PandaLabs, also found that "it doesn't make sense" how users are not implementing safeguards to protect themselves and their data despite the increasing threats.

"It is really worrying as there is malware actively spreading and infecting Mac computers and having no protection is a dangerous behavior," he said.

Preinstalled antivirus impact limited
Asked if having Macs preinstalled with antivirus programs will help, the FireEye CEO said it would only mitigate threats to a certain degree since no piece of software is entirely secure.

As malware increase in sophistication and are deployed across multiple devices, hardware and platforms, traditional defenses have been rendered obsolete by zero-day attacks, which cannot be stopped by blacklists or reputation-based systems, he explained.

Miloslav Korenko, marketing director at Avast, added that while preinstalling antivirus will make it easier for users to get the security they need, it may undermine Apple's reputation and such an initiative might not be welcomed by the company.

To mitigate the increasing risks, Aziz suggested vendors adopt an integrated approach that will detect and prevent malware across potential attack vectors such as Internet and e-mail.

Corrons also called on the IT industry to work together to educate Mac users on the existing threats and what they should do to avoid cyberattacks.

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