It’s something you hear all the time when you read forums and comments. Someone talks about malware and instead of saying malware, they say “virus”. And someone pops up to reply “Macs can’t get viruses. [Mac Defender] isn’t a [virus] – it’s a [trojan]“.
And it’s true: There isn’t a self-replicating infectious programme for the Mac. They’re not impossible to build (just because you don’t have Admin privs doesn’t mean it can’t be done) but at present, they don’t exist.
But you know what? It. Doesn’t. Matter.
It doesn’t matter for two reasons: First, to someone who’s got Mac Defender stuck on their machine, whether it’s a virus or a trojan or a god-knows-what doesn’t matter – it’s messing up their Mac, the one they bought because little-jonny-know-it-all told them “Macs can’t get viruses” – and they didn’t know that little-jonny-know-it-all had small print at the bottom of his statement saying “Of course, they can get trojans”.
Second reason it doesn’t matter: By FAR the biggest number of malware threats to Windows aren’t viruses either. In fact, most Windows malware writers don’t bother with self-replication or even exploiting known security holes, because trojans which use social engineering are far, far more effective – they, unlike viruses, can’t be patched out of existence.
But does the average Mac user know this? No. The average Mac user still appears to think that viruses are the biggest threat on Windows, and that malware writers do it for bragging rights. That’s a picture that’s so far out of date it’s not funny.
[Mac Defender]: http://blog.intego.com/2011/05/02/intego-security-memo-macdefender-fake-antivirus/