Do Mac OS X Users Need Anti-Virus Protection?

apple-back-to-the-mac-lionThe necessity of anti virus applications on Mac OS X has long been debated. Just the other day, we brought Sophos’ latest malware figures to you which showed that a small percentage of Macs were infected with various pieces of malicious software. Only 2 of these viruses were capable of executing on OS X, and the rest were designed for Windows. The most prominent virus infected just 4.62% of machines, and isn’t even capable of running on Mac OS X.

Many people argue that Macs are less likely to become infected because they’re more secure by nature. After all, there are very few viruses written for the Mac compared to the plethora of threats created for Windows systems. Is this because OS X is more secure due to its UNIX back-end though, or is Windows simply a more tempting target for virus creators due to its mammoth market share?

Market share of the Mac has been steadily on the rise since the introduction of Mac OS X, the mini revamp the operating system saw with the introduction of Leopard, and especially since the iPhone came to market in 2007. Despite this, it still stands at single figures worldwide, unable to challenge Microsoft’s binding monopoly in the market.

For Apple though, this could be considered a very large blessing in disguise. There is a very active community of Mac developers, one which will only grow with the abundance of iOS devices in the market, as these developers make the move over to Mac OS X. It seems that around 10% US market share is the sweet spot for Apple: lots of developers, but not enough worldwide users to interest many malware developers.

I personally don’t believe that the reason for low amounts of malware on the Mac is due to Mac OS being a more secure operating system. In many ways, OS X could possibly be more secure than Windows, but the fact of the matter is that people in lots of countries all over the world still use Windows in favour of other operating systems every day.

A lot of computer users in the world don’t even know that anything exists outside of Windows! Simply put, it’s a numbers game, and if you’re creating a virus, you want it to be present on as many machines as possible. It’s the same reason why there are very few Linux viruses out in the wild.

So what is the answer then? Do Mac OS X users need anti-virus software? At present I would say it isn’t a necessity. The chances of a Mac being infected are negligible when compared to a Windows PC, but with the market share of Mac OS X continuing to rise, it may be necessary sooner than you might think.

What are your thoughts on anti virus protection in OS X? Do you use anti virus software on your Mac? With many choices out there, such as Intego VirusBarrier X6, AVG Link Scanner and Sophos’ free offering, there’s no shortage of options if you wish to.

Whatever your thoughts , let us know in the comments as always. We’d love to hear what you think!