Viruses on Mac OS X.

This morning, I got involved in a Macs vs. PCs argument on a listserve I belong to on the topic of viruses and security. There had been an email on the listserve that was spam, and some of the email variations were infected with a virus. Someone asked about the email, got told about the virus and was also told by one of the participants in the thread that he hoped that the asker was running a current anti-virus program that has the virus files updated. The asker responded with “No, I’m not running any of that stuff actually. I’m on a Mac ;)” The respondent who had asked about the antivirus program said “I wonder why you’re not. Macs can/have been infected by viruses. They aren’t the same one for the PCs, but there are viruses for the Mac.”

Thus did the argument begin. I pointed out that while there were viruses running around on Mac OS, there aren’t any for Mac OS X (aside from the obligatory mention of MS Office macro viruses). The Mac OS viruses that I’d run across in general were pre-8.5, and couldn’t even run in Classic today. Mac antivirus developers do a great job, and I’m the first one to say “Antivirus? Sure, install that. Cheap insurance against the inevitable.” But actual viruses running around on OS X that can actually do anything, destructive or otherwise? I just haven’t run across any. Spyware’s been a big zero on OS X as well, with the exception of commercial programs like Spector.

So where did this pervasive meme of viruses on the Mac come from? Does it come from “Well, it’s on Windows, so it must be on the Macs too,”? Is it FUD at work? Is it just generalization? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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