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Apple Yanks Mac Virus Immunity Claims From Website 327

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-hard-to-be-humble dept.
redletterdave writes "Apple quietly switched out a statement that claimed its Mac computers were completely immune to viruses with a less-forward statement: 'It's built to be safe.' The PR shift comes in the aftermath of the Flashback Trojan, which affected hundreds of thousands of Macs back in early April. From the article: 'Apple strives for perfection, but stating something is perfect when it isn't is ultimately bad for PR and company morale. Jobs used his reality distortion field to "rally the troops," so to speak, but "Mountain Lion" will ensure Apple can tout its closed, highly-secure operating system for the foreseeable future in a much more realistic sense. Just because a product isn't impervious to sickness doesn't mean it isn't "insanely great."'"
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Apple Yanks Mac Virus Immunity Claims From Website

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  • by allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:16PM (#40440709) Homepage Journal
    I mean, that type of statement COULD be construed as false advertising? Or am I completely wrong?
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:22PM (#40440803)

      They were careful to say that Macs are immune to Windows viruses. It's sort of like saying that Ford cars are generally unaffected by Toyota's engineering flaws. Doesn't mean that they don't have any of their own.

      • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:25PM (#40440847)

        Still seems a fair comparison. Hey, folks, product X is plagued with such and such problem. Ours isn't. Come buy ours.

        • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:30PM (#40440921)

          It's saying that, but in such a way that it's strongly implying "we don't have that problem" when they actually do. What if Ford put out an advertisement saying "Are you afraid of your Toyota skidding off the road into a tree? Then come buy a Ford!"? Sure, if you're driving a Ford then your Toyota probably won't hit a tree... but your Ford still will.

        • It's like saying, "Buy a cat! Cats are not vulnerable to fin rot!"

      • by Kenja (541830)
        Much like all those adds claiming "Ours is the only product with TERM WE TRADEMARKED!"
      • by bky1701 (979071)
        Even that isn't true. Certain classes of viruses (program-specific usually, like office macro viruses) can infect any system running the vulnerable program. These I would call these "windows viruses" considering they still largely infect windows, to which Apple OSes have always been susceptible. Even Linux is, to some extent.

        Even ignoring the above, it is still pretty scummy to imply your system is secure against viruses when it isn't. Tricky wording doesn't make it any better. Indeed, it makes it worse,
      • by bitt3n (941736) on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:16PM (#40441629)

        It's sort of like saying that Ford cars are generally unaffected by Toyota's engineering flaws.

        Then someone's Ford gets rear-ended by a runaway Toyota, and you end up with a class action suit against Ford for making such an outlandish claim.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:55PM (#40441291) Homepage Journal

      No, it is correct that Windows is the only OS that can get a virus (and I'm not sure they still can get them). The International Business Times is a terrible source of tech news; wtf does an MBA know about computers?

      They show their ignorance when they state

      Microsoft had its Schadenfreude moment in early April, when a Russian antivirus company discovered that hundreds of thousands of Macs were infected with a variant of the Flashback trojan horse, which reportedly was able to exploit several vulnerabilities in Java, allowing itself to install onto the user's browser without any intervention or action on the user's part.

      They're confusing the Flashback Trojan with Trojan BackDoor.Flashback, which is a worm. Worms and trojans can and often do contain viruses (most of the boot sector viruses in the '80s and '90s were also trojans).

      The wiki article on this worm says "The trojan, however, will only infect the user visiting the infected web page, meaning other users on the computer are not infected unless their user accounts have been infected separately. This is due to the UNIX security system". NOT a virus. It has to be able to self-replicate and spread by itself to be a virus.

      Any computer can get a trojan, and Unix systems have been hit by worms (an example is the Morris worm [wikipedia.org] that almost took down the internet back in the '90s).

      Unix and its bretheren, like BSD, Linux, and Mac, were designed from the beginning to be for networked, multi-user machines. Windows was never designed from the ground up to be for network computers, and MS now pays the price. Apple was smart to move to a Unix-like system when internet access became normal.

      I just "fixed" an old "virus-laden" Dell last week that ran so slowly it would barely boot. But there were no worms or viruses, just useless memory-eating toolbars (I consider these to be malware, they do nothing or very little for the user and eat your performance for corporations' sake). It runs like a top now.

      Odd how Norton won't warn you about that kind of crap, which slows your computer down as badly as being on a botnet.

      • No, it is correct that Windows is the only OS that can get a virus (and I'm not sure they still can get them).

        I'm not sure that is correct. Viruses "infect" existing programs; worms apparently replace them. From my understanding of Linux, I see no reason why, given root access, a virus could not be made to work on a Unix based system?

      • by steelfood (895457)

        Odd how Norton won't warn you about that kind of crap, which slows your computer down as badly as being on a botnet.

        That's not odd when you consider that's exactly what they're trying to sell you in the first place.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:03PM (#40441399) Journal

      I don't see how you could be, after all they made the statement to sell units and the statement is pretty blatantly false. The scarier part to me though is how many actually believed it. I mean I have sat here on this very forum and been gobsmacked as an otherwise perfectly sane individual would argue that since Flashback is a trojan it "didn't count" like a child on a playground demanding a do over.

      In the end folks there is no such thing as a general purpose OS that doesn't get malware, period. Apple, Linux, Windows, ALL THREE have bugs and if one uses only the tiniest bit of logic you would know why, it is because Operating Systems are now some of the most complex software ever written, millions of lines of code designed to interact with a myriad of hardware, and that isn't even counting all the millions of lines of code for the third party software running on top. To expect any company or group to be able to build something THAT complex and not have a single error? I'm sorry but that is simply ridiculous,humans are simply incapable of that level of perfection. There is simply too many interactions going on and no one person can keep up with it all.

    • Couldn't be sued (Score:5, Informative)

      by SilverJets (131916) on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:09PM (#40441519) Homepage

      Here is a link showing the before and after of the Apple web page in question.

      http://sophosnews.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/mac-osx-before-after.jpg [wordpress.com]

      I don't think they could be sued, there is no false advertising on their part. It blatantly states "A Mac isn't susceptible to the thousands of of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers."

      That is a completely accurate statement. Mac OS X cannot be infected with a Windows virus.

      • The wording changed because of the recently added "sandboxing" built into the OS since Lion. This is not a step to distance the "Doesn't get PC Viruses" claim, it's updated marketing to advertise new features of the OS. So in addition to still not getting all those nasty viruses that PCs get (ostensibly), there are "built-in defenses" as well.

        I think the slashdot hatesourcing is overthinking this (not you, per se, the comments in general.)

    • Exactly - I worked for an Apple reseller and I would never tell people they "couldn't get viruses", I told them we'd had all the demonstration models running with no security beyond the router's bog standard firewall for three years and never had a problem, that you were very unlikely to have problems, then give them a quick spiel on still having to be aware of phishing scams and the like. Would social engineering be any more effective on the average Apple user because of complacency? Very possibly.

      Any
      • by mlts (1038732)

        When recommending Macs to people [1], I get the virus question asked all the time. I try to clarify the difference between malware types.

        Viruses are not really a viable infection vector on Macs because people don't share executables, and Word macro stuff is pretty much stomped out.

        Trojan horses are a major threat. Especially when someone wants a pirated copy of something and finds that their copy of iWork has more than just an office suite in the .DMG file. Executable signing helps here, but the Dancing

    • by kwark (512736)

      Last month the Dutch "ad regulation commission" forbade Apple to make invulnerability claims:
      https://www.reclamecode.nl/webuitspraak.asp?ID=76881&acCode [reclamecode.nl] (in dutch offcourse, use your favorite translation engine).
      The conclusion of the commission is that no software can guarantee immunity and asked Apple to prove their claims. Apple didn't (unclear if they even tried). So the commission ruled in favor or the complainer, thus banning Apple from making these false claims. It looks they changed this worldwid

    • Suprising that no one has sued.

      I mean, that type of statement COULD be construed as false advertising? Or am I completely wrong?

      Most software is delivered "as is" and some kind of problems are bound to appear anyway. Otherwise you couldn't release almost anything. Apple has everything set up quite nicely compared to Microsoft boasting in their old installers how the new Windows 98 is more secure than ever...

  • by SailorSpork (1080153) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:20PM (#40440769) Homepage
    Apple viruses have been around for awhile. Linux viruses exist. Viruses exist even for obscure, closed computer systems (look at STUXNET). Statistically, were they less likely to get viruses because Apple's OS is on a lower percentage of the computers out there? Yes. Immune to all viruses? Laughable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by etresoft (698962)
      I think one of the reasons for the re-wording was to remove the word "viruses" since it so obviously confuses people who don't know the difference between viruses and trojans and think the handful of Mac malware in 12 years is equivalent to over 17,000,000 for Windows. Sorry, but market-share doesn't account for that discrepancy.
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        I think one of the reasons for the re-wording was to remove the word "viruses" since it so obviously confuses people who don't know the difference between viruses and trojans and think the handful of Mac malware in 12 years is equivalent to over 17,000,000 for Windows. Sorry, but market-share doesn't account for that discrepancy.

        And why not? When you can design a virus (Trojan, whatever, no one outside the tech community gives a crap what term you use) that hits 20 times as many targets, many used in industrial or commercial settings (such as what Stuxnet targeted), why would you bother trying for a Mac virus? The point of most malware isn't to hit a specific target (there are exceptions of course, but as I said before, many of them run Windows, and are usually targeted in more precise attacks anyways), but to hit as many targets a

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:21PM (#40440773) Journal

    IIRC, the claim was that Macs were immune to "Windows viruses".

    • by lightknight (213164) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:42PM (#40441109) Homepage

      Yes, and Windows is immune to Mac security bugs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, they made two claims. 1) They don't get PC (as in personal computer) viruses. and 2) That they are immune from Windows-based viruses. Claim #2 can be true if they are referring to viruses/vulnerabilities that affect the underlying Windows operating system - hence the Windows-based claim and could equally be claimed by Microsoft or Linux in the same manner. We already know there are cross-platform issues with Flash that affect both equally and led to Flash being banned from iOS devices. So claim #1 could

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:21PM (#40440781)
    How many viruses are there for Windows? "Apple quietly switched out a statement "? What are they supposed to do have a press release? Would any company on the planet do that? Just because they got nailed by a virus doesn't make them worse than a PC. So many people are desperate for a chink in Apple's armor that they overreact to things like this. Put it into perspective. They are still very resistant to viruses. I have more legitimate issues like searching for files on a Mac is a joke and they aren't as stable as they used to be, especially since Lion came out.
    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:29PM (#40440903)

      Because was gots ta hates on the Applez! GOTTA HATEZ! Kill! Kill! Hate! Faster LOLCat! Kill! (pant) (pant) (shakes fist)

      Geek cred must be constantly watered by the dripping spittle of hate against a gadget company, and refusing to let others (The Sheep!) like what we don't like!

      • by bky1701 (979071) on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:59PM (#40442233) Homepage
        "Geek cred must be constantly watered by the dripping spittle of hate against a gadget company, and refusing to let others (The Sheep!) like what we don't like!"

        Which is why half the comments here, and on the last story which will not be named, nearly all of them, were blindly defending Apple, no matter what?

        Some of us are seriously worried about what would happen were Apple in Microsoft's position. Say what you will about Microsoft, they have never yet attempted the walled garden to the level Apple has made a business model and sold to billions of people with questionable claims. Speaking of which - pot, kettle, black, since most people complaining about Apple being attacked love to go and do the exact same thing they accuse others of when a story about Microsoft (and even Linux at times) comes up.

        I'd personally prefer if neither company existed, but Microsoft is the incompetent demon I know, Apple is the devil I don't. They have already proven they are able to manipulate the market to absurd levels (iTunes, locked down mobile OSes and service lockin, increasingly walled off desktop OSes, etc) in ways that harm ALL computer users, not just Apple users. You can bet when Apple does something sneaky like quietly remove implications that they are immune to viruses I am going to pay attention. If that looks like irrational hatred like you claim it is, well, I think it says a lot about how objective you are to your "gadget company."
    • This argument is as old as the sun. Apple has had a very minor part of the personal computing market share for a very long time. The distribution of 'apple' viruses was really not worth anybody's time. Virus writers are looking for huge impact -- why would they limit themselves to the smaller piece of the pie? Now Apple's got themselves a much bigger piece the action than before. And guess what, people have started writing Apple viruses. Their claims of immunity have always been inappropriate. The pr
  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:23PM (#40440815)

    Here are before and after images of the marketing text [macrumors.com].

    Also, contrary to the summary, it never claimed complete immunity to viruses, merely immunity to Windows viruses, which is, admittedly, a trivial and silly distinction to make, but I like playing the pedant.

    • by chrb (1083577)

      it never claimed complete immunity to viruses, merely immunity to Windows viruses

      The full quote: "It doesn't get PC viruses. A Mac isn't susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers. That's thanks to built-in defenses in Mac OS X that keep you safe, without any work on your part."

      Technically you are right - a Mac won't be susceptible to a PC/Windows virus. However, if we are playing pedant, then we should also consider the claim that this immunity is due "to built-in defenses in Mac OS X". An immunity to PC/Windows viruses is not due to any special defenses

    • Here are before and after images of the marketing text [macrumors.com].

      Also, contrary to the summary, it never claimed complete immunity to viruses, merely immunity to Windows viruses, which is, admittedly, a trivial and silly distinction to make, but I like playing the pedant.

      Actually, it makes several statements:
      1: In big, bold type, the site declares regarding their brand of computer:

      It doesn't get PC viruses.

      So, unless your Mac is not a personal computer, it's obvious that is an untrue statement; even Mac-target virii are, technically, "PC viruses."

      Below that heading, the site spells things out a bit more specifically:

      A Mac isn't susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers.

      Ignoring the obvious FUD ("plaguing?" Bit hyperbolic, no?), that

      • In Apple marketing land, a PC is a Windows box. That's why the commercials go, "Hi, I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC." When you hear their executives talk, they're smart enough to know that Macs are PCs, but for marketing purposes, they've always drawn that line.

        As for the rest, I agree.

    • it never claimed complete immunity to viruses, merely immunity to Windows viruses

      Although Windows is mentioned in the small text, their original tagline was "It doesn't get PC viruses." That's not necessarily Windows-specific.
  • Closed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by milbournosphere (1273186) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:28PM (#40440885)

    ...its closed, highly-secure operating system...

    Apple's OS is a lot of things, but it's still Unix based. If I want to do something, a terminal window is a click away. They've made the low level settings harder to get to via a settings window, to be sure; but at the end of the day, I can always issue the appropriate command. Closed might describe their mobile OS well, but that doesn't apply to their desktop OS (yet).

    • Apple's OS is a lot of things, but it's still Unix based. If I want to do something, a terminal window is a click away

      For now; I have been saying this for a long time, but Apple is moving towards a product line where only their most expensive workstations give users the freedom to open terminals or write their own software. People did not flee from iOS; they embraced it like it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      • by Gr8Apes (679165)

        People did not flee from iOS; they embraced it like it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

        That would be because compared to everything out there, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. That's more a statement about how bad the market was than how great iOS is. And the market hasn't really improved much, despite the wailing and whining of the Android crowd. Android as it currently exists is a disaster - no real standards, multiple versions, no defined upgrade path, essentially all the problems of the market when iOS debuted. For those that come by saying "but, I can root my Android device

      • by ratbag (65209)

        Any citation for the claim that access to the Terminal will be restricted in the future? Or that the putative restrictions will only apply to expensive "workstations"? Or is it just something you've been saying?

        Anyone can write software for the Mac. If it's for your own use, that's the end of the story. In the future, anyone can request a certificate that will permit distribution of their software (either through the App store or independently). XCode runs on all Macs from Mini to MacPro (I know, I run it o

        • Any citation for the claim that access to the Terminal will be restricted in the future? Or that the putative restrictions will only apply to expensive "workstations"? Or is it just something you've been saying?

          Just something I have been saying, based on where the general market for personal computers is moving and based on the enormous success Apple has had with its "App Store." There is a trend towards locked-down computing, and Apple is a leader in that category. So far, they have been nice enough to limit the lock-down to their iPad/iPhone/iPod line, but there is no real reason why their "consumer" MacBooks and Mac Mini systems could not be locked down. There would be plenty of money in it for them if the

    • > Closed might describe their mobile OS well, but that doesn't apply to their desktop OS (yet).

      Closed can be read multiple ways.
      1. Closed as in closed-source. Contrary to open-source. i.e. So where is the source for Finder or for Quartz or basically all the non-kernel functionality?
      2. Closed as in API and what programs are allowed to run. You just can't add whatever API extensions you like to the OS, say like Linux / BSD. For right now you can run whatever programs you want (you don't need Apple's ap

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CritterNYC (190163)
      The next Mac OS release will block any software not signed with an Apple-approved digital certificate by default. Advanced users can go into options and untick the option. This is seen as the next step to an iOS-style lockdown of the whole OS. The first being the release of the app store (with some preferential placements of apps installed via said app store). The next step, in Mountain Lion, making it so all developers have to go through apple, pay a yearly Apple developer fee, and be approved through
      • by amiga3D (567632)

        About the only thing I use on my Mac anymore is the video apps. Once the Linux versions get just a little better I wont give a damn what they do. My Mac Mini can run Linux too.

      • by alen (225700)

        So? for techincal users this will be easy to undo

        for people who just want a computer like they want a toaster this will mean the software they install has been checked for malware. this using the computer thing like a manual transmission was cool 20 years ago but at this point people just want to use the software on it and don't care about the monkey work

    • Re:Closed? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:10PM (#40441541) Journal
      You know that "open" does not just mean "there is a CLI available", right ?
    • by trcooper (18794)

      *facepalm*

      Yes, closed.

      OSX is absolutely a closed OS.

      A terminal window has nothing to do with openness. Android doesn't put a terminal window in the forefront, but it's an open OS.

      And for the record, UNIX(TM) is absolutely not open either. Linux is, FreeBSD is, UNIX is as closed as anything from Apple or Microsoft.

  • Progress (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onyxruby (118189) <{onyxruby} {at} {comcast.net}> on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:47PM (#40441163)

    I consider this to significant progress on the part of Apple and they deserve to get credit. Much as Microsoft has their head buried in the sand for years before they started making changes, we should applaud Apple for taking the first step. I welcome Apple to world of reality, a world in which operating system have security flaws, require patches and get viruses.

    Now that Apple is in at least some small way acknowledging the real world, let's see if they can clean up their act the way Microsoft did years ago. Admitting you have a problem is always the first step, now we can always hope that they will start to embrace industry standards for dealing with security issues. Perhaps someday their users will no longer also have their heads in the clouds about security issues?

    Kind of funny thinking about it, a decade ago I never would have imagined citing Microsoft as a company that can be cited as cleaning up their act for security. /responsible for securing an environment that is %50 mac, so I'm not trolling.....

  • Google can still claim that ChromeOS is virus free!

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:53PM (#40445035) Homepage

    "claimed its Mac computers were completely immune to viruses"

    No, that's not what it said. It said, and I quote, "A Mac isn't susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers."

    That is still true today.

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