Remember those infamous Mac versus PC television spots that cast the PC as a virus and malware magnet? You remember the ones: Actor Justin Long personified the Mac, and always spoke in smug, superior tones to comedian John Hodgman, who represented the perpetually perplexed, problem-plagued, and patch-prone PC. The ad campaign was a devastatingly effective one, and helped define Microsoft Windows -- and Windows Vista in particular -- as a buggy OS for socially inept losers.
The ads were often technically inaccurate and unfair, but they went unchallenged by Microsoft for so long that many less-informed viewers bought the line that the Mac was invulnerable to viruses. In political parlance, Apple defined Microsoft long before the slumbering marketing department in Redmond even realized that long-term damage was being done.
Since the heyday of the Mac vs PC campaign, things have changed. Windows 7 is arguably one of the most hardened and regularly updated OSes available, and now Apple and the Macintosh are in the headlines for fighting off malware and patching vulnerable software.
Apple Updates OS 10.5 with 'Flashback' Removal Kit
One of the biggest security stories to emerge this year was the arrival of the 'Flashback' malware, which initially appeared in late 2011. Designed to take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities in Java for the Mac, the flashback spread quickly through thousands of largely undefended Mac computers. Russian security vendor Dr.WEB did some recent analysis of the Flashback botnet and revealed that more than 650,000 Macs were potentially infected with the malware.
Flashback is noteworthy because it heralds the collapse of the specious argument that the Mac has always been inherently superior to Windows PCs when it came to being resistant to viruses. Flashback proves that the Mac can be just as vulnerable as the PC when malware and virus authors focus their efforts on it, and the attitude of many Mac users -- who mistakenly believe that the Mac simply doesn't get malware or viruses -- has probably helped Flashback have a larger impact that it should have.
Let's be honest: The Mac's alleged resistance to malware and viruses has always had more to do with the fact that Windows PCs presented a much larger (and more economical) target for virus and malware writers than the comparatively miniscule installed base of Apple computers. With Apple selling more Macs than ever before, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that we'll probably start seeing more Mac viruses and malware in the future. If you have a friend or colleague that still believes that the Mac is immune to viruses or malware, please show them this article.
In order to combat the spread of Flashback, Apple has issued security updates for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and OS X 10.5 Leopard, and released a Flashback removal tool that helps users remove Flashback from their systems if they've been infected.Quicktime for Windows Patched
In somewhat related news, Apple also released an update for their popular QuickTime software to update it to version 7.2.2. A posting on the Apple security website states that the update was meant to fix a QuickTime vulnerability that could be exploited by users "visiting a maliciously crafted website" that could remotely install code that could "lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution."
Have you had to deal with Flashback removal for Macs in your IT environment? Share your thoughts by adding a comment to this blog post or contributing to the discussion on Twitter.