Saw a news story over at the BBC about how laptops sent up to the International Space Station were infected with a computer virus, partly because the computers “reportedly do not have any anti-virus software on them to prevent infection”. The mind boggles; how could so many smart people be so stupid?
That got me to thinking about how I don’t have any antivirus software on my Macbook laptop. (Not quite true: I have ClamXav, a free virus scanner for the Mac, but it’s not a “real-time” scanner and I rarely perform scans manually.) I did a bit of Googling on the topic and found a Slashdot piece (followed by the usual pro- and anti-Apple bashing; get a life, people!) that linked to a pertinent and interesting, if not entirely convincing article by computer security expert Rich Mogull, “Should Mac Users Run Antivirus Software?” Mogull claims that most Mac users do not benefit from running antivirus software, given how very few viruses target the Apple OS X platform. The latter statistic owes partly to Apple’s relatively small market share, and Mogull notes that there may come a point when that market share grows high enough for viruses to start becoming a real threat.
On the Windows side I’ve found that most antivirus software offerings suffer from creeping featuritis: antivirus programs turn into “security suites” and eventually install all kinds of extremely obtrusive programs that make them as much of a hassle as many of the viruses they’re supposed to block. Over time I’ve bought and given up on Symantec and McAfee when both programs started popping ads selling upgrades or worse, unrelated products from the same company. Evidently it is too much to ask for a program that does just one thing and does it well.
Fortunately, using a Mac largely spares me the aggravation of dealing with bloated antivirus software. As long as Macs remain largely unpopular, of course. So please, don’t buy a Mac… unless if you’re a national or international space agency.