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Yes, Macs get less viruses than PCs. But that doesn't mean Mac anti-virus software is worthless. It may help to protect your friends and colleagues.

Viruses on Macs

If you're running a Mac and think you're safe from viruses, you're almost right. Mac viruses are rare, though a few dangerous ones do exist, for example the Hong Kong virus.

But there are good reasons why you should still run anti-virus software. The main one is that viruses can pass through your machine and infect the PCs of your friends and work colleagues when you give them your files. They won't appreciate this, or hearing you say, "Well, it didn't affect my Mac."

This is definitely a problem if you run Microsoft software such as Word. You can harbour a virus and pass it on to scores of people and you won't know until somebody tells you.

A second problem is trojans and backdoor programs. Hackers worked out a while ago that Macs rarely run protection software. Specialist hacking programs have been developed which specifically target Macs. It's more of a problem for Mac networks than stand-alone machines, but just as individual PCs are now being targeted, so are individual Macs.

You may not know a backdoor is on your computer, but it could be used for mass email attacks (called Denial Of Service attacks) or for highly illegal activities such as hacking banks. Sometimes (fortunately rarely) hackers wipe clean the computers they've used as intermediaries in these attacks, so there is some risk to your machine.

Good anti-virus software stops hacking programs.

But overall, the main reason you need to use virus protection on your Mac is to protect other people, rather than yourself. I ran a Mac at work for a couple of years, and found about four viruses that I would have passed on to company PCs if I hadn't been using a virus protection program.


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