It's the content that matters, not the box

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am


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I am now completely confused. I thought I was safe. One of the reasons I bought a Mac to begin with was to avoid all the worry and nonsense surrounding the security of the PC. Apple just released some kind of 'security update' that fixes hundreds of 'flaws'.

Not only that, it said both PCs and Macs are at risk. The anti-virus companies are all predicting a rush on the Mac so they can soon boast 'compatibility' with the PC in terms of virus attacks. Can you tell me what is going on here? Am I really at risk? Can I trust what the anti-virus companies say? Should I buy all the anti-virus software I can? Should I dump everything and try to learn Linux? What about Intel? Macs now run on Intel - will that make it easier to exploit them?

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Sheung Wan

Let us take this a step at a time. How dangerous are viruses (or any other kind of software that can intrude into your machine)? The answer is clear: these can do a great deal of damage and do so all the time.

Now ask yourself, 'What can I not live without (in computer terms, of course)?' 'My applications?' 'My computer?' 'My e-mail?' Your answer should be quite simple - it is your information. That includes your e-mail files, documents, spreadsheet data, database, contact list, drawings or images and videos. Any one of these is often considered irreplaceable.

Instead of thinking in terms of protecting any given machine, you should be thinking about protecting what you cannot replace. If you were a business, your chief financial officer would be thinking in terms of how much it would cost to replace anything that was lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed. You may want to look at your personal life in the same way.

The point is you must not get overly concerned about the box - the computer - or its operating system. Is Mac OS X safer than many others? Yes, it probably is. But you would do well to keep an eye out for any attacks. You will miss the point if that is all you thought about. In the past I have talked about backup, but not exactly in this context. Much of your personal data would mean little to a thief. They could mean everything to you. How have you backed them up? Copied them to at least two other places so that if the backup fails, the backup of the backup will work? If the information is the written word, have you encrypted it?

Apple Computer recently announced 31 fixes to its operating system and some people have jumped on that. If you leave your notebook in a taxi, none of that will matter. Is the Mac 'safer' than a PC? Probably. Should you be smug? Not at all. The fact that Apple uses Intel chips is irrelevant. The attacks are usually based on the OS or application flaws.

I strongly advise you to think about where your data is kept. By all means run the firewall, get the anti-virus software and do everything else to protect your machine. You can even learn Linux, if you like. Just remember what is truly important. It is not the box.

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