Protect vs. Create

Viruses: Designed for Windows XP.I use a Mac. I’ve been using email and browsing the web on my Mac for at least 10 years now. (Well, okay, I sometimes stop to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom.) I have never used any virus-checking software or spyware removal software, and I have never had any viruses or spyware. That’s because there are no viruses and no spyware that have affected the Mac. The Mac has been completely immune to everything that has ever been out there.

Many people already know that, but I think most people have never heard what I just said, or it has never really sunk in. If this “no viruses on the Mac” stuff is new to you, now that I have your attention, let me continue.

I’ve been a fan of Leo Laporte for some time. For those of you who are non-geeks, Leo is an author, and a TV and radio personality who is surprisingly well-versed in a broad range of technologies. He’s known for taking live calls and giving tech support during his shows, and he makes it interesting to listen to. It’s somewhat like the Car Talk guys from public radio, except Leo doesn’t do cars, he does “anything with a chip in it.” That means PCs, Macs, digital cameras, cellphones, PDAs, whatever. He’s been doing this for at least a decade, probably more. He hosted a show on (the sadly-defunct) Tech TV and now hosts a tech-centric talkshow on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles every week. I really appreciate how even-handed and honest he is with all of his callers. He’s talented. But why am I blogging about him, especially in the context of this entry?

I just heard an interview with Leo in which he admitted that he’s had to tell his call screeners to only take one spyware-related or virus-related call per show, because they get so many calls on that topic that they could otherwise fill the entire show with them. Let me pull a quote from Leo out of this interview that really encapsulates what I’m trying to say. It begins about 7:44 into the interview (the emphasis is mine).

There really is the beginning of a trend away from Windows, away from spyware and viruses, and towards Mac. I spend almost all the time with Windows users telling them how to get rid of spyware. It’s pathetic. It’s horrible… I told the call screeners, “One spyware a show” because otherwise that’s all we would be doing. I was on the MacMania Cruise a couple of months ago and it was so refreshing to be only with Mac people, and to talk about what you can do with a computer instead of what you can do to stop viruses and spyware… In the Windows environment, you’re no longer looking at what you can do with a computer. You’re buttoning it down. You’re saying, “How can I protect myself?”

That’s the thing that saddens me most about the computer industry today. I’m not trying to make a statement about all Windows users or all Mac users. What I’m saying is that, in general, Windows users have a “protect” mentality, because they have to, whereas Mac users have a “create” mentality, because they have the freedom to. The difference is shocking. It once again makes me wonder why people would use Windows for anything but high-end gaming and highly-specialized markets.

8 thoughts on “Protect vs. Create

  1. I’d like to point out that viruses do in fact exist for the Mac, but they’re *extremely* rare and I don’t believe any of them are worms (i.e. don’t self-propagate – they have to trick people into running them). A count I heard a few months ago was 40 viruses for Mac Classic, 6 for OS X, and at least hundreds *per day* for Windows.

  2. Oh, I’d also like to mention that in all my life (I’ve been a Mac user all my life and I’m 19 years old), I’ve only ever seen a single Mac virus. And it was the Merry Christmas virus that simply infected Hypercard stacks to say Merry Christmas on Dec. 25. That’s the *only* virus I have ever actually seen on a Mac. And no, I don’t do any sort of virus protection, because it’s pointless.

  3. Are there really 6 viruses for Mac OS X? I’ve heard of trojan horses for the Mac, but that’s another story altogether. I don’t count that as a virus because it’s really just a computer program that was written to specifically do malicious things, but the user has to actually give the program permission to run. What I mean is, it’s not possible for any computer system to protect against trojan horses, no matter how advanced it is. It will always be possible for programmers to write code that modifies files that belong to the user (as they should), so it will, by implication, always be possible for a programmer to write code that deletes all a user’s files. That’s why I haven’t counted the few trojan horses I’ve heard of. You’re right though, even the trojans are extremely rare. Almost no one is ever affected by them. It’s probably more likely that your hardware will fail than that you’ll get one of those things. 😉

    Of course, once we get to this point in the discussion, we have to start whipping out definitions for all this stuff, and I totally want to avoid that.

    But YAY! for no worms. 🙂

  4. Quoth my last free issue of Mac World: “At press time, research from Sophos (a maker of antivirus software) showed that 68 viruses have affected the Mac while 97,467 have affected Windows. Of those 68, most are a decade old or older and don’t directly affect OS X.”

    So there are Mac viruses out there. There have been plenty of articles talking about the lack of viruses pushing people towards Macs–but what’s interesting is that the more people who head to Mac thanks to the lack of viruses, the more likely hackers will target the Mac, thus neccesitating virus protection. Sitting back and laughing at Windows users without having any protection yourself seems kind of silly. One day that’s going to bite a lot of Mac users in the butt.

    I’d recommend the Mac World article (March 2005 issue). It answers a lot of security questions about the Mac, including viruses, wifi, macros, etc. Good stuff.

  5. A similar argument to kevin’s has been used for firefox: don’t let your ego get too inflated, if the masses come, someone will find holes and exploit them. I love my mac, but I also realize that nothing as complex as a modern operating system is going to be completely free from security holes, no matter how well designed.

    That said I’ve made a lot of money rebuilding people’s windows machines after spyware made them unusable. I also have to use windows for testing at work, and somehow I’ve never had any spyware affect my machine, even though I use IE. I’ve gotten viruses, but that’s only because I was the “virus guy” for awhile and I infected test machines regularly so I could find the best way to get rid of them on our machines.

    Anyway, I’m always surprised that people will click “Yes” to activex controls pretty much without fail, but no one *ever* clicks the little balloon telling them they have windows updates that need to be installed. That one boggles the mind.

  6. Great comments, guys! I don’t want to make it sound like I’m laughing at Windows users. I’m not, because there’s nothing funny about it. I would hate it if someone hijacked my computer and messed with my data.

    I’m also not saying Mac OS X can’t have viruses, although having seen first-hand on multiple occaisons how tight the security for Mac OS X is and how quickly the security team acts, I’m pretty confident in it.

    What I’m saying is that right now, in this moment, Mac OS X is a wonderful respite from the viruses and worms and all the crap that bog consumers down and keep them from reaching their full potential on their computers. I understand that Apple doesn’t talk about the lack of viruses on the Mac in their ads because that would be “asking for it.” I’m not attempting to do that, and I acknowledge that it’s probably possible, somehow, to create a virus that would affect Mac OS X.

  7. I guess there’s some value to being the underdog and having a small market share, eh? If it was worth the time involved, you can be sure Macs would have more problems. Not as many as Windows, because you guys are set up better, but you would still have more.


  8. Oh, and Leo is quite the cool guy. Tech TV still semi-exists as the G4 something or other channel, but it’s a shadow of its former self. Interestingly enough, I had/have a huge crush on a Jessica that is not my Jessica, and she did stuff for Tech TV as well.

    Leo occasionally shoots his mouth off without thinking, but he’s a nice guy that really knows his technology stuff.

    One thing I should also add is that Windows users SHOULD have the create mentality as well. Serioiusly. Keep your virus protection updated, and don’t do the stupid stuff people do to get these things in the first place. I don’t even think about protection on my comp at home very often, because I do the above.

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