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Apple anti-virus advice was nothing new

Mac malware meme put in its place

SANS - Survey on application security programs

One of the more famous Get a Mac ads boasted that Apple systems, unlike Windows boxes, didn't need anti-virus software. So when an article on an Apple support site encouraged the use of anti-virus software on Macs it seemed like news. In truth the article reiterated long-standing, though little publicised, advice from Apple.

There's little or no difference between an item on the support site published on 21 November and since pulled (but available through Google's cache here) and what Apple was saying in June 2007. Both encourage the use of anti-virus software on Mac machines, suggesting the same three alternative scanner software packages (from McAfee, Symantec and Intego). Apple has talked about anti-virus for Macs for much longer than this - since at least 2002 (notice here).

The Apple support site posting might have gone unnoticed and unremarked on but for a blog posting by Intego on 25 November stating that "for the first time" Apple was recommending the use of anti-virus software on Macs. The Apple posting was noted in a posting in the blog of Graham Cluley, of Sophos, in a piece on 27 November discussing a new strain of Apple malware (Cluley has since acknowledged the advice wasn't new).

And when Brian Krebbs of Security Fix noted the same supposedly new security advice in a column on Monday December 1, the factually inaccurate meme began to gain a life of its own. Krebbs shouldn't be blamed for thinking this was new, not least because he was told he didn't need anti-virus for a Mac he bought only three months ago.

On Tuesday, along with world+dog, we inaccurately reported that Apple had changed its stance on the use of antivirus. Apologies, dear readers - and especially to the Mac fans among you.

Apple itself hasn't stepped in to correct this factual inaccuracy, or to answer reporters' questions about its KnowledgeBase article in the first place, so it was left to Mac news sites such as MacDailyNews (and Reg readers) to put us right on the timeline for Apple's advice. Thanks guys.

Belt and braces

So what about removal of the support article of 21 November that unwittingly seeded this "urban myth" in the first place? Apple told Macworld.com it removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was "old and inaccurate".

Apple spokesman Bill Evans told MacWorld that Macs were secure "out of the box" and that antivirus simply added an extra layer of protection on something that was inherently secure.

For a contrary opinion see a posting from Sophos here.

And for a bit of fun check out a PC vs Mac vs Linux cartoon (below), guaranteed to amuse any fanboys of whatever persuasion, and done in the style of South Park. ®

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