Where You Been, Malware?


John Siracusa on Hypercritical episode 63:

And there’s this period of time where the Macs really didn’t have a problem with malware at all. The PC had tremendous problems with viruses because they were the massively dominant platform at the time all of our computers got connected to each other (…) It wasn’t like the Mac wasn’t vulnerable. You could write malware for it really easily. It was arguably more vulnerable than Windows.

By “this period of time,” I think he means the last couple of decades.

This is the only reason I’ve ever heard for the astonishing absence of malware on the Mac since the ResEdit days. The PC just has this huge marketshare, and hackers just want to affect the greatest number of people, and so they just haven’t been interested in the Mac until… 2011?

This explanation has never satisfied me.

Though the principal motivation for hackers is monetary, it isn’t just a stereotype that there’s a bragging-rights component.

You mean to tell me that with all of the incessant, self-assured grandstanding by Mac users like me, “Don’t worry about viruses. You don’t have to protect yourself against viruses with the Mac. Viruses, schmiruses,” that not one of these vermin took a break from his RPG to put on his cleanest “iFail” T-shirt and prove us all wrong?

This does not compute.

I can only come up with two explanations:

  1. It actually is harder to get Mac malware to spread.

  2. Humans who are attracted to the idea of writing viruses are also attracted to Windows, and once they start running a Unix environment to test out their garbage, they find the experience so pleasant that they forget about what they were doing, start respecting themselves, and go forth with dignity.

posted Monday, April 16, 2012