updated 02:20 pm EDT, Mon April 10, 2006
Macs threaten networks
Mac users could unknowingly contribute to growing network security and virus problems, despite their relative immunity to most viruses. An executive from McAfee has said that Macs pose a potential threat to network security because they can incubate infected files which only Attack Windows systems, and because Mac users are lax with regard to security practices. Allan Bell, Asia Pacific marketing director of McAfee, says that many Mac users are not as vigilant as they should be, and that sloppy security practices on Mac systems may enable Windows viruses to lay dormant on Macs to later infecting Windows machines, according to ITWire. [updated]
"An issue [Mac] users need to be aware of is that in some cases they can be a carrier -- effectively a Typhoid Mary," Bell said. "That is because you can have infected files on the Macintosh that do not infect the Macintosh but at a later date those get transferred across to a Windows machine which they can infect. Macintosh users still need to be scanning for Windows viruses to make sure that they've got clean files and don't have infected files that they can pass on."
Bell said that the issue is based on enterprise policy and training.
"There is a danger that organizations which are 100 percent Macintosh and that are using Windows but are not frequent users of Windows, then they may not be aware of the security issues and could leave themselves open," Bell said.
"Ultimately, organizations need to make sure they're secure and they have to be aware of the security issues that exist for all platforms. [...] It's possible to secure and scan all files that are coming across to the Macintosh at the gateway. If you're running a dual boot system, make sure you've got adequate security on the Windows side of that system. It's just a matter of making sure you are security minded," the executive added.
The McAfee marketing director pointed to rising threats on the Mac platform itself, and indicated that the Mac world is not as responsive as it should be to potential threats, according to the report.
"The overall threat level is a lot lower than the threat level for Windows users but that's changing. In terms of vulnerabilities we see vulnerabilities on all systems out there but most do not attract exploits," Bell continued.
"For the Macintosh, there are a lot of vulnerabilities but often there are no exploits for them and eventually they get patched. But people are slow to patch them and those systems are open to attack. The people who are writing these attacks are not writing as many attacks for the Macintosh systems but that may change in the future as the Macintosh becomes more popular," Bell said.
"In the dual boot situation, when they're booted into the Windows system, they are just as vulnerable to attacks as is the average Windows user."