Security company's new antivirus software is designed to defend Mac users against malware and to scan iPhones, iPads, and iPods as well.
Lance WhitneyContributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Panda Security has launched its latest product, this one geared specifically for Mac users.
The security firm today unveiled Panda Antivirus for the Mac, designed to defend Mac OS and OS X users against viruses, spyware, adware, and other forms of malware. In addition to scanning e-mail and local files on the Mac, the new software will prevent Mac users from unknowingly sending malware-infected documents to friends and colleagues running Windows or Linux, Panda said.
Moving beyond the computer, the software will also scan iPhones, iPads, and iPods to make sure those portable gadgets aren't delivering malware to other devices or to the Macs themselves.
The question of whether Macs need antivirus protection has long been debated. Many experts and users have felt that the Mac's relatively small market share has kept it off the radar of malware writers. But as its market share creeps up and more threats come directly from the Web rather than through local files, Mac users may find themselves more vulnerable.
In a recent interview with CNET, J.R. Smith, CEO of antivirus company AVG, said that even though there's lot less malware for Macs, the threat does exist, especially with the browser as the potential port of entry.
At one point almost two years ago, even Apple was recommending that Mac users install antivirus software, pointing out that the Mac was susceptible to Web-based malware. However, the company quickly switched gears and removed that bit of advice from its Web site the following day.
On its end, Panda naturally is touting a need for its new Mac antivirus software.
"We are approaching a tipping point where it will soon be financially viable for cybercriminals to target their efforts at Mac users," Ivan Fermon, senior vice president of product management for Panda Security, said in a statement. "When Apple reaches 15 percent market share worldwide, which Panda expects will happen very soon, we predict that hackers will begin to aggressively target attacks against this platform. The rapid increase in use of Apple-powered devices--iPhones, iPods, iPads--is also making the Mac platform a much more attractive target."
According to market researchers IDC and Gartner, Apple isn't yet in the top 5 PC vendors worldwide--Asus comes in at No. 5 with 5.4 percent market share--but in the U.S., Apple has reached the No. 3 spot with 10.6 percent of the market.
Panda said that it knows of around 5,000 strains of malware designed specifically to target Apple computers, with around 500 new samples popping up each month. The company pointed out that phishing scams and scareware rely on the trust of the victim rather than on malicious code, making them a potential threat to all computer users. More vulnerabilities are also being discovered on the Mac, added Panda, with 175 so far this year compared with only 34 in 2009.