Windows users beware: Macs more likely to carry Windows malware than Mac malware

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The smug smile so often worn by Mac users whenever the subject of malware and viruses comes up was wiped unceremoniously from their faces recently when news of Flashback hit the headlines. The malware had reportedly found its way onto some 600,000 Mac computers around the world and had the potential to collect passwords and other personal information before forwarding it to a remote server.

Despite Apple and a number of other security companies coming up with a fix, it was reported that a fair few Mac owners still hadn’t made any moves to check whether or not their machine was infected.

Some Windows users were understandably rather pleased to hear of Flashback, meaning they would no longer have to listen to long speeches by diehard Apple fans about how Macs, unlike computers running Windows, never get viruses.

Well, this story appears to have taken another turn which might have the effect of wiping all smiles off all faces.

According to antivirus firm Sophos, a Mac computer is more likely to carry Windows malware than Mac malware. How about that!

Sophos came up with the figures after analysing data from 100,000 Mac computers which have recently had installed the firm’s free anti-virus software.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, wrote in a post on the firm’s Naked Security blog that 1 in 5 (20 percent) Macs is harboring some form of Windows malware, whereas only 1 in 36 (2.7 percent) Macs is infected with Mac OS X malware.

And here’s the part of Cluley’s post that might really annoy Windows users: “Although Windows malware on Macs won’t cause symptoms (unless users also run Windows on their computer), it can still be spread to others.” That’s right, a Mac user could unwittingly be infecting the Windows-operated computers of their friends.

Cluley pointed out that although Mac users might be relieved that they’re much more likely to have Windows malware on their computer than Mac malware, they should still take steps to protect their machine.

“Malware can spread onto Macs via USB drives, email attachments, website download, or even a silent drive-by installation where the user doesn’t realise their Mac’s security has been subverted,” he explained, adding, “What Mac users really need to do is protect their computers now or risk allowing the malware problem on Macs to become as big as the problem on PCs in the future.”