Sophos: Apple users "soft targets" for malware threats


The dismissive attitude of Apple users to computer viruses needs to change, as research from security vendor Sophos shows that 20 per cent of Macs carry Windows malware.

The firm explained that, while Windows malware is unlikely to cause much disruption to Mac users, it can be easily passed on to other computers.

Moreover, Sophos also discovered that approximately 1 in 36 Apple computers contain Mac OS X malware.

Mac users need to be responsible members of the internet community or they're going to continue passing on viruses

Its findings, published at Infosecurity Europe in London today, are the result of an analysis by Sophos of 100,000 Mac computers.

Sophos claimed that some of the Windows malware its research uncovered dated back to 2007 and would have been easily detected, if Apple users were not so laid back in their approach to anti-virus.

Speaking to IT Pro, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the results, along with the discovery of the Mac-focused Flashback malware, should serve as a wake-up call for Apple users.

"For Mac users, the dream is over. They've been living in denial all this time. We've just found 600,000 users infected with Flashback. They are going to have to start running anti-virus," said Cluley.

"Mac users need to be responsible members of the internet community or they're going to continue passing on viruses to other people and contributing to the spam email problem."

He said part of the problem is that many Mac users consider their systems to be impervious to attack from viruses, making them a soft target for hackers and malware authors.

"If you're a bad guy writing malware, you wouldn't write it for computers that are constantly being updated with anti-virus signatures," said Cluley. "Why not write it for the platform where people are more laid-back about things like that?"

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.