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In such articles as this one at, we see that Apple had long "advertised" the immunity of its desktop OS to viruses. It had to dilute that assertion when the Flashback virus appeared.

What was it about OS/X that made Apple so confident that it was immune to PC viruses?

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You may have made an assumption that is incorrect. Just because they said it was immune does not necessarily mean they believed it. – Rory Alsop Jun 13 '13 at 13:53
Apple had immunity to KNOWN viruses, not all potential viruses. It's marketing-speak quibbling and a common error in logic, not a technological specification. – schroeder Jun 13 '13 at 16:57
@schroeder They love to deny it when they come out also. They're such nice people. – Griffin Nowak Jun 17 '13 at 3:16
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Compared to Windows, Mac OS X has:

  • Smaller user base: Means it is less interesting to malware creators, thus fewer viruses. Although there are viruses for Mac OS X, they're not as much as Windows malware. In the past few years, this has been changing, and it's backfiring. Because people think they're less prone to malware, they tend to develop bad usage habits, such as trusting, downloading, and executing everything.

  • Better access control: Unlike Windows, with Mac OS X you don't have access to root/admin account by default. Starting with Vista, Windows starting using UAC, which is way better than nothing, but still provides easy access to root/admin privileges.

Apple never explicitly said that Mac is virus-proof (there are many nasty viruses for Mac out there), but they implicitly manipulated the users into thinking so. While keeping that in mind, it's also good to know that on average (and with an average usage behavior) you'll definitely be less likely to be infected by malware while using Mac OS X than using Windows.

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+1 for the Mac vs PC link. :) – Terry Chia Jun 13 '13 at 12:22
My favorite is when they go to a Windows machine and complain that "This would never happen on my Mac it's safe." I'm sitting there thinking "This wouldn't happen if you weren't such an idiot.". – Griffin Nowak Jun 17 '13 at 3:17

It had long been claimed by Apple that OSX was not "susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers" and "doesn't get PC viruses" -- which is technically true. Viruses that run on Windows will typically not run on OSX.

You need separate viruses for OSX because it uses a completely different standard library, support APIs, and even executable format. Software build for Windows won't run on a Mac, and that includes viruses.

Note the nowhere in this claim is there the assertion that "there are no viruses for OSX"; such a position would be simple to prove false.

Why they now changed their position on the (trivially true) assertion regarding Windows viruses; most likely this is because by making that assertion, they're drawing attention to the now growing list of OSX viruses as reporters snatch headlines by pointing out the hypocracy.

By instead being silent on the issue, the could hope to continue to capitalize on the general perception of safety without actually claiming it to be true.

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App sandboxing isolates apps from the critical system components of your Mac, your data and your other apps. Even if an app is compromised by malicious software, sandboxing automatically blocks it to keep your computer and your information safe.And Gatekeeper makes it safer to download apps by protecting you from inadvertently installing malicious software on your Mac. So we now know that sandboxing and Gatekeeper will protect you from any nasties. Phew. But hang on Apple missed iworm mallware in security check . If you download a malicious app via uTorrent (for example), Gatekeeper won't bat an eyelid. If you try to install an app infected by iWorm, XProtect will block the install but it won't go looking to see if you are already infected with it. And sandboxing makes no difference as it is limited to certain apps/plugins. Apple security- the gift that keeps giving.

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