General Question

tan235's avatar

Can Mac computers get viruses?

Asked by tan235 (877points) May 30th, 2011

Hey all, my partners computer seems to have a virus.
It’s a macbook.
When he opens safari or fire fox, he gets a weird red screen with a little dude holding up a sign, that says ‘this page does not support your version of safari’ then there is a ‘download update’ box, which when you click, is an exe file, which is not mac.
It doesn’t look like legit and I think it’s a virus, does anyone know about this?

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11 Answers

King_Pariah's avatar

I know that they can get a virus, and whatever it is your friend has is not good, whether it be a virus, a worm, or a trojan horse. There was one time in high school (all the computers there are and were macs) that someone got a virus spread onto all of them.

ragingloli's avatar

Sure. Only thing preventing it is that no one seems to bother writing mac viruses.

tan235's avatar

How do you get rid of it?
He can’t seem to open any browsers to get online or check his mac email.

gorillapaws's avatar

@tan235 has he run “Software Update” from the Apple menu in the top left corner? I would do this first.

@ragingloli there are other measures that prevent viruses on OSX. It’s build on Unix, so users have to explicitly authorize root access by typing in a password which makes many types of malware difficult to spread (Trojans are obviously still possible). Nothing is ironclad, but by basing the foundation of OSX on such a solid and time-tested system, they’ve made things much more secure than going with a fully-proprietary solution.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@gorillapaws on any operating system (UNIX included) it is possible for a virus to run without requiring root/supervisor access and without taking advantage of a flaw or exploit. Both things make running malicious code easier admitedly but dont assume they’re needed. For example the most recent variant of Mac Defender will install and execute without any user interaction.

Neither can you use the number of reported viruses on a particular platform is not an indicator (either way) of the security of that system. Yes, macs haven’t been on the recieving end as much as windows systems but for a very long time the mac user base was so small as to not make it worth the effort.

amujinx's avatar

A biased article since it was written by a Microsoft blogger, but supposedly none of the Mac bloggers are saying anything on the subject.


@gorillapaws While you are correct that any virus one is likely to get will require a password (or like the article says, at least you approving the virus program to run while under the admin account) computer hackers have been picking OSX apart when they are just attacking a single computer in hacking competitions. Don’t assume you are safe just because OSX is UNIX based.

jerv's avatar

No computer is immune.

No sane person runs as Root; they use a non-privileged account and sudo as needed. This is the default behavior in Ubuntu, but Apple has simplified those options out and Windows barely has that (UAC is as close as they get.) So that means that most Windows and OS X machines are just waiting to be raped.

As @Lightlyseared points out, malware doesn’t need root/admin access, but it does make things easier to infect.

One other thing to point out here is that many Apple users are seen as smug and self-righteous enough that they will be targeted out of proportion to their market share, as well a by those who want more of a challenge than shooting dead fish in a barrel. (My cat could write a virus for Windows!) If nothing else, the claim that Macs are immune to viruses provokes a lot of smartasses to try proving them wrong.

Buttonstc's avatar

I just read the article linked and I have a few questions which I hope can be answered.

1) Evidently this is one of those so called “drive-by” situations where it installs itself upon simply visiting the site. How can one identify/avoid the types of sites where it is likely to be lurking?

2) it sounds as if just doing a search on the term “Mac Defender” will yield results in which some of those sites could contain the very infection one is seeking to avoid. If so, how do you get any accurate info since Apple Supprt reps are being instructed not to give specific help.

3) why on earth would Aple be crazy enough to take this approach. It is self-defeating and provides no benefit to either the company or end user?

4) Would using Firefox or Chrome instead of Safari prevent this automatic installation? I’ve been using FF rather than Safari for years now already and Firefox always pops up a dialogue box for specific authorization of any downloads. (the only exception to this hapened several years ago and it was a Windows Media File evidently containing background music to play automatically. But I stopped it as soon as I noticed it.)

5) would ClamAV, a free virus protection program which I recently read about (possibly here on Fluther) be an effective protection measure?

5). The article stated that if Apple continues to take 2–3 weeks to respond to each variant, the bad guys will make tons of money. How do they make money by screwing up people computers rendering them unusable?

I always thought most virus writers did it for bragging rights or something. I mean, it’s not as if these virus writers are in the computer repair business like the Geek Squad or something so how do they benefit from messing up peoples computers?

I realize that’s a lot of Qs but I know there are a lot of really tech savvy people on Fluther. Hopefull you’ll be willing to help out those of us who are technotards.

I’m at the head of the technotard line but I do read a lot :)

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Buttonstc point 1 only visit trusted sites. some weird little site with a long strange URL should always be avoided

point 2 is inacurate. Apple has released an support article to remove mac defender and apple support reps will point you towards it and offer guidance on how remove it.

point 3 although they did take that aproach initially you can put that down to apple tightly controlling absolutely every bit of info reps give. They don’t do anything until its been disccussed at every level.

point 4 probably not. every browser has weaknesses. The best bet is to keep the thing upto date.

point 5 it wouldn’t hurt. but the best computer security is multi faceted. keep software up to date, be careful what sites you visit, be careful what files you download and run, make sure your computer doesn’t auto run anything etc

point 6 the macdefender program asks for your credit card number. Some people give it to them. It’s that simple.

The reasons people write malware is endless. You got little kids doing it because they can, you got people setting up bot nets to send out spam you got the CIA writing viruses to screw with centrifuges in Iranian nuclear power plants…

amujinx's avatar

@Buttonstc Lightlyseared already answered your questions pretty well, so I’m just going to address about why people make viruses. Originally, yes, most viruses were created just for bragging rights and to mess with people. People still do make viruses for that reason even, it’s just not as common anymore. At some point someone realized they could make a bunch of money by making viruses that by using social engineering would make people give up credit card info, bank info, etc.. Another way that virus makers get information is by making keyloggers, which send the information of what keys you press once the malware is loaded on your computer.

As I stated when I posted the article, it is MS biased (and also a week or so old, which I forgot to mention) so it’s going to make it sound like Apple is in much bigger trouble than they might be. If Apple (and Apple’s supporters) continue to hide their head in the sand about security issues on the computers, then yes, the company is going to have trouble. If Apple man’s up and starts encouraging people to take a more diligent effort to maintain security on their computers (Every Mac owner I know personally has at some point claimed to me that Mac’s are immune to viruses so they didn’t need to bother with security, ideas they formed from ads like this and this) then Apple can continue to be relatively virus free and avoid much of the scrutiny about security that MS has gone through. We will see what the company and community does.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Old news. But there it is.

As for the small print of your question, I’m not sure how to resolve that problem. Sorry.

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