Friday, February 25, 2011

Apple and Viruses. Guest Post by Spring Intern - Michael Senatore

Intern:  Michael Senatore
Topic:  Apple and Viruses
Internship Outline #1
Version 1.0
Date:  25 February 2011

For years, Apple products have had one up on the PC regarding viruses and malware.  However, due to increased market share, that time may be coming to an end. 

Throughout the history of Apple products there has been a long standing consumer myth that they are incapable of becoming infected with viruses.  Most believe that the Mac Operating System was simply more secure than that of PC.  Although the system may be more secure, it is still vulnerable to malware and other infections.  One needs to look no further than the fact that Apple sells anti-virus software from many of the leading names in the virus protection industry.  What really gave Apple its edge was their lack of market penetration, a result of occupying a small portion of the computer sales industry.  Simply put, if you want to catch a fish, you go to the pond with the most fish.  That “pond” has always been PC’s.  However, along with their growing popularity and rise in market share, Apple products are becoming more vulnerable to viruses and other harmful infections.

The myth that Apple products are impervious to viruses is almost like a virus in and of itself.  Only instead of infecting Apple products, it is infecting the way Apple users think about the product.  This “myth” continues to mislead Apple users into believing they are safe from viruses and there is no need for anti-virus programming.  Unfortunately, life would just be too simple if this was the case. From reading forums and discussing the topic with owners of Apple products, it is blatantly obvious that Apple users are completely unaware of the harm to which they are exposing their computers.
            Currently there are several types of viruses that can potentially harm Apple products.  One of the main areas of concern is downloading files that are infected with Trojan horses, spyware, and worms.  These types of files can be found on pirated software and games.  Versions of Microsoft Office infected with viruses can also infect Mac products using the program.  Also, browser plug-ins for viewing video content can harbor malware, making your Mac more vulnerable to other infections.  These problems are really just the beginning because they do not take into account the growth and success of Apple and their products. 

-Apple, the company, must do a better job of informing their customers of the risk to their computers.  What was once a selling point, needs to now be addressed as a concern.
-Apple users need to become more educated.  They need to open their eyes to the problem and take appropriate action.
-Acquire an anti-virus program.  Many of the major anti-virus companies, such as McAfee, Intego, Norton and Symantec have all released programs for Apple products. 

The main reason for the recent increase in viruses infecting Apple products goes hand in hand with the success of the company.  In just the past two years, Apple has consumed nearly 3% of the entire computer sales in the United States, raising their overall market share to 10.4%.  Although that may not sound like a large increase, Apple’s annual growth is nearly off the charts.  Over those same two years, Apple’s year to year growth has been 24.1%, which dwarfs the overall industry’s growth of 3.8%.  With the wild popularity of the iPad, iPhone and other Apple products, this percentage will only continue to grow.
            In any business venture, success has its drawbacks, and this same theory can be applied to Apple and their current surge in the United States computer sales industry.  As stated previously, the idea that Apple products were incapable of being infected with viruses was a selling point.  Many businesses opted to use Apple computers for their convenience and savings that go along with not having to worry about viruses or spend more money on anti-virus programming.  While Apple products once enjoyed the safety of their own anonymity, they must now accept what comes along with their new found popularity. 

-The “myth” of Apple products not being able to contract viruses is simply not true.
-Apple has become a mainstay of the computer industry, holding a market share of nearly 11%, a figure which continues to rise.  As a result of the increased penetration, the most secure days of the Mac OS are in the past.
-The vulnerability of Apple products goes hand in hand with the success of the company, which is growing at a rate nearly eight times that of the rest of the computer industry.
-While the sales figures of HP and Dell have plateaued, Apple continues to grow at an annual growth rate of 24.1%.
-Apple currently holds the number four ranking in the computer sales industry, behind HP, Dell, and Acer.  Following market trends, by this time next year, Apple will be well ahead of Acer and catching up to HP and Dell. 
-Due to the wild success of the iPad, iPhone and the Mac OS, there are no signs of Apple’s growth slowing down.

-The majority of Apple users are completely unaware of the susceptibility of their computers when it comes to malware.  Stay informed with updates from Apple and other security upgrades.
-The easiest way to prevent computers from being infected with viruses is to stop them before they start.  We all know how difficult computers can be to work with when they are infected with any type of virus. 
-Nearly all the major anti-virus companies now sell programs for Apple products.  (A sign of things to come?)

-Verify that your computer is protected by an anti-virus program.  There are some free anti-virus programs available, such as iAntiVirus and ClamXav, however they are not considered as robust as the major companies such as McAfee, Intego, Norton and Symantec.
-Use common sense when surfing the web.  Do not visit websites that are not known to be secure and do not download files or documents from an unknown sender.  Also make sure your virus scanner and security updates are frequently updated with the newest protection.
-Stay ahead of the curve by educating yourself with the current viruses and other problems infecting computers. 
-Happy surfing!

“Do Apple Computers Need Virus Protection”.  Robin Noelle.  April 1, 2010.
“Apple’s Share of Computer Sales Surpasses 10% in the U.S.”.  Eric Slivka.  October 13, 2010.
“Hey Apple, About This Virus Thing”.  Steven Hodson.  April 27, 2010.
“Antivirus Software On Your Mac:  Yes or No?”.  David Greenbaum.  February 4, 2011.