Vantage point

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mc for Mac

One of the biggest assurances a user of a non-Windows OS will always have is his near-immunity from virus attacks. Most people feel this is because Windows is "inherently" flawed, and has many vulnerabilities, which say, a Mac OS does not. Now I am not sufficiently equipped to go into which OS actually is the most secure, from a purely technical point of view. But the biggest factor that makes Windows so vulnerable to virus attacks is its market-share.

Remember, viruses or worms are not natural or physical problems, such as a bad sector on a hard disk. They are malicious pieces of code, purposely written by someone to take advantage of the vulnerabilities in a system. Whoever writes virus codes has no real incentive to do so except a perverse nihilistic pleasure and an ego-boost similar to that derived from Project Mayhem. Considering the nature of the incentive, he would want the effect of his work to be as widespread as possible. And considering that the Wintel platform so overwhelmingly dominates the personal computing space, no virus creator would want to waste his time writing code which would exploit the weaknesses in the Mac OS. Plus it would be difficult for Mac-centric viruses to spread as rapidly through networks.

So Mac OS users have been by and large protected from virus attacks, since they are low visibility low impact targets for the cyber-terrorists.

But now that Apple is migrating from the PowerPC processors to Intel processors, and its popularity is slowly but steadily inching up, the vulnerabilities are also growing and being exploited. Virus attack are directly linked with popularity and market-share.

Which is why Apple will be thrilled with the fact that McAfee, the anti-virus company, feels that security threats for Mac are growing and feels compelled to release an anti-virus product for the Mac OS. Even though the product is targetted mainly at the Mactel platform, just knowing that there is a rapid increase in the number of malicious codes being written targetted at Apple computers will show that the company is doing something right.

If I were a Marketing Manager in Apple, I would pray for the news of more viruses being let loose targetting Mac OS, and more vulnerabilities being detected.