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Apple yanks antivirus advice from its Web site

Official calls it 'old and inaccurate,' but researcher blames Apple's penchant for secrecy

December 3, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Late Tuesday, Apple Inc. yanked from its Web site a controversial support document that had urged Mac users to run antivirus software. The recommendation was "old and inaccurate," a company spokesman said today.

The document, which had become the focus of considerable discussion among Mac users and security experts this week, is no longer available on Apple's support site. Instead, users who surf to its location are greeted with a generic message: "We're sorry. We can't find the article you're looking for."

"We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate," Apple spokesman Bill Evans said in an e-mail Wednesday.

"The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box," he went on. "However, since no system can be 100% immune from every threat, running antivirus software may offer additional protection."

The now-missing document was brief -- just 81 words -- but it was enough to stir debate. "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus-writing process more difficult," the document said. It also listed three antivirus programs from McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Intego, a small Mac-only security vendor.

Some users, bloggers and security professionals had viewed the document -- which was actually a revision of one first posted last year -- as a change of heart on the part of Apple, which, in TV ads over the years, has poked fun at Microsoft Corp.'s Windows for being susceptible to attacks.

Several security researchers applauded the move and agreed that it was time for Mac users to start buying antivirus software. Others, however, called it a tempest in a teapot -- though not necessarily because they agreed with Evans' contention that the Mac's operating system provides adequate protection against threats.

"There's nothing inherent in the [Mac] OS to stop someone from writing a virus," Charlie Miller, a researcher at Independent Security Evaluators and a noted Mac and iPhone vulnerability hunter, said in an interview Tuesday. "But at this point, no one's making the effort to go after the Mac."



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