Sophos: 20% of Macs harbor Windows malware

By Matthew ยท 22 replies
Apr 24, 2012
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  1. Although folks are currently fixated on the Flashback botnet, Sophos draws attention to the fact that one in five Macs harbors some kind of Windows-oriented malware. The company gathered results...

    Read the whole story
  2. Darkshadoe

    Darkshadoe TS Guru Posts: 571   +113

    Why is this surprising? Windows has been the dominate OS for the past 25-30 years. Of course there are going to be a metric poop ton of viruses written for it. As Mac becomes more mainstream, it will get it's fair share as well. It does not make sense to code a virus for a piece of software very few people use.
  3. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757


    I completely agree. Unfortunately, I doubt that most Mac users will start taking appropriate action until the proliferation of OSX bugs really starts gaining momentum. If Windows is any example (and it is), mainstream coding for Mac viruses will hit average Apple customers like a ton of bricks, what with repair & replacement costs.
  4. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    From what I've read on the computer forums I frequent, the Mac users that post there are generally dismissive of the problem once they find out they aren't going to be hurt by it. A very vocal minority is actually happy that their computer will infect other Windows computer while leaving their computer unscathed.

    Justin Long has yet to comment however.
  5. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757

    Brand zealots have always had a reputation for being paragons of maturity. Must be quite the burden...
  6. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,471   +375

    When I worked at a University setting up computers for new students, I always suggested/advised new Mac users to install some kind of antivirus software on their systems. Basically a "don't be part of the problem" mini lecture, especially since that university was something like 15% Mac systems. That's a fairly large portion of users to be possibly harboring and spreading viruses to other computers (even if they are not infected by them).

    Some didn't, some did. *shrug*
  7. @davislane 1

    That's why it's so scary to lose all rational thoughts, especially to a product. The reason why zealots get so furious and angry is because you're not only "attacking" (educating them about computer viruses/malware and how to avoid it), but you're also attacking their identity as a person. They identify so much with what Apple has sold them, as in brand loyalty and unwavering trust, that they will defend to their death of such blasphemy. Intriguing what a great marketing team can do with perception and at the same time sad, that while as an individual people are smart, but as a group are dumb as a flock of sheeps.
  8. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    I'm going to address your post, but at the same time acknowledge the posts between yours and mine because they all are related.

    I spend about 50% of my time in front of a computer in front of a Mac, 49% of the remaining time on a Windows machine, and 1% of the time on a FreeBSD box. So, while I don't intend to speak for the "Mac community", I do think I am qualified to state my opinion.

    I do not think it is any duty of mine to have to protect other PC users from their own malware. Perhaps its for the greater good that I do, but it comes at the expense of my system resources (however plentiful they may be), and I don't want that. I have my own Windows systems with their own anti malware measures in place, I let those machines defend themselves. They don't need my Macs to help them defend themselves.
  9. That Windows malware sitting on the Mac harddrive is just waiting for its opportunity to suddenly "execute" in OSX when it sees a Windows machine in its vicinity. NOT.:p

    Malware can only be defined as such if it is in a position to harm its host. In truth, those Macs contain NO malware because it is indeed harmless to the mac.

    Don't believe everything you read. It is apparent from the comments that the only infection here is in your brains. It's enough to make me want to go Mac. NOT. ;)

    BTW, Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, adware, rootkits, and other. A HUGE field of possibilities.

    The ignorance displayed on this forum could easily be construed as a form of human malware.

    Finally, an anti-zealot is just another form of zealot. Equally as narrow minded.
  10. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,471   +375

    Ultimately, I do agree with what you say. I ~personally~ would not expect anyone to do anything that might benefit someone else, especially given the circumstances and the lack of any direct consequences. I only suggested it to the mac users and told all the PC users to install a decent antivirus (and get rid of that PoS McAfee at the same time, which was being bundled to everything) and to "beware of any files coming from ANYONE, you never know~" =)

    Either way, I was more or less told to tell/suggest/warn them, and the university had it's own policies regarding network security. *shrug*
  11. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757

    I don't think that this is in dispute. My response to the OP was in reference to the segment of Apple's consumer base that are still sold on the idea that Macs are virtually invulnerable and who lack the computer literacy to perform routine maintenance. In my personal experience, this encompasses a lot of people. As such, when OSX begins experiencing in the future what Windows experiences now as it relates to the matter, I would expect a lot of people to flock to Apple Stores for solutions, much like people do with Geek Squad & similar services. However, stating that this is applicable to "most Mac users" was probably too far reaching. In any event, I certainly agree with your argument.

    As for the guest going on about ignorance and anti-zealotry...

    Firstly, malware is malware. Whether or not it poses any threat to the host machine is completely irrelevant, as it still retains its defining characteristics & functions. Suggesting that it isn't actually malware because it doesn't attack a system it isn't designed to attack is fallacious. For instance, the plague didn't intermittently cease to be the plague when fleas were in transit between hosts. Nor does a piece of candy cease to be a "sweet" if you give it to a kid born without taste buds. Likewise, malware doesn't cease to be malware simply because it's inert on a system it isn't targeting.

    Secondly... Where's the "anti" zealotism?
  12. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    Its not your duty, but eventually there will be a piece of malware for the Mac which will affect you. And not having any security measures in place your system will be open to being damaged, and you will pass on the virus to other Mac users.
  13. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    You never know, Guest might be the first person to remove a piece of malware from a computer solely be engaging it in didactic dialogue.
  14. Doctor John

    Doctor John TS Enthusiast Posts: 204   +15

    Having read the above, I take it there's no chance of Macs being secured against Windows malware as a goodwill gesture?:D
  15. Ultraman1966

    Ultraman1966 TS Enthusiast Posts: 94   +10

    Oh but Macs never get viruses... *cough* Seriously, I hear that from a lot of people who aren't tech savvy. They will moan about their PCs which are usually low spec and out of date and laud about the Mac... if you paid Mac (Apple) money for a laptop/desktop then you'll get something decent too. Anyway, that's a different issue... so now Mac users can get used to all the AV and patching business that we do have...w00t!
  16. Guest is completely correct (though the disparaging remarks can be omitted). Regardless of original intent, if an object residing on the computer in question is harmless to it then in this context the object can not be called malware.

    To our family my cat is beautiful and harmless. To a mouse it is the harbinger of a most agonizing and painful death. It is not the cat, it is the context.

    Context is everything. Losing sight of this is the primary reason for most conflicts, micro and macro.

    Sophos could be accused of spreading FUD for personal gain.

    Guest is also correct in stating that any view we vocalize that we have a strong attachment to (for or against) is a form of zealotry.
  17. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    You're so off base. What you're failing to grasp in your analogy is the inherent purpose of a cat. The purpose of a cat, in your particular situation, is to be a pet. The fact that it is a terror to mice, is incidental to it being a pet.

    A piece of malware has no other purpose than to be malware. The fact that it has no effect on you does not change its nature. The fact that it can propagate itself to other computers and cause harm further confirms that its nature is inherently malicious.

    If this Mac malware was only capable of being passed on to other Mac computers, and it was 100% unable to affect those computers, then your analogy of it NOT being malware is correct. But as it is still capable of being spread to Windows computers, that means that its inherent nature has not changed, it just happens not to affect your computer. So it is still malware.

    This is science, not philosophy.
    cliffordcooley and Matthew like this.
  18. The great thing about Mac users is they are treated like a customer by apple:

    Rule 1: The customer is never wrong.

    Rule 2: If the customer is wrong , see rule number 1
  19. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 5,332   +101

  20. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 4,736   +3,757

  21. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,719   +3,697

    Anyone who knowingly stores malicious code on their machine without any intentions of removing it are no better than those who created the code. As a Mac user, it may not be your job to help Windows users keep their machines clean. That does not mean you shouldn't care less whether Windows machines are contaminated from code off of your Mac.

    There is such a thing as being an accessory whether voluntary or not.
  22. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    cliff - is there evidence of malware actively jumping from a Mac to Windows either over flash drives or a network? I've read several posts in this thread that seem to indicate that is happening. I don't think it is, is it?
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  23. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,719   +3,697

    Interesting question, if this is not actually a problem then the article in itself is pointless.

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