SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hacker attacks on Apple Computer Inc.'s OS X
operating system, thought by many who use the Mac to be virtually
immune to attack, are on the rise, according to a report from
anti-virus software vendor Symantec Corp.
"Contrary to popular belief, the Macintosh operating system has not
always been a safe haven from malicious code," said the report, which
was issued on Monday.
"It is now clear that the Mac OS is increasingly becoming a target for
the malicious activity that is more commonly associated with Microsoft
and various Unix-based operating systems."
An Apple spokesman said the Cupertino, California-based company would
have no comment on the report.
Many in the Macintosh computer community have long claimed that the
Mac platform has been virtually immune to attack -- unlike Microsoft
Corp.'s Windows operating system, which runs on more than 90 percent
of the world's personal computers.
The Macintosh operating system, the current version of which is based
on the Unix operating system, has less than 5 percent of the global
market for computer operating systems.
"All these platforms have vulnerabilities - it's a fact of life," said
Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds. "The truth of the matter is that Mac
is only a couple percentage points of (computer) shipments so it's not
an interesting target."
Apple's recent introduction of the Mac mini, a $500 computer sold
without a display, keyboard or mouse, could actually increase the
likelihood of more malicious software computer code targeting the Mac
platform, Symantec said.
"The market penetration of Macintosh platforms will be accelerated by
the much lower priced Mac mini, which may be purchased by less
security-savvy users," the report said. "As a result, the number of
vulnerabilities can be expected to increase, as will malicious
activity that targets them."
Symantec said that over the past year, it had documented 37
high-vulnerabilities -- weaknesses that leave the system open to
malicious software attacks -- in Mac OS X They "have been confirmed by
the vendor, which, in the Apple case, almost always means that the
company has released a patch."
A patch is a small piece of software designed to shore up a
vulnerability or to fix other software glitches.
At the same time, the report said that while those vulnerabilities in
the Mac operating system will increase, "they will likely be
outnumbered in other operating systems for some time to come."
Shares of Apple fell 87 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $42.83 on
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