Last updateFri, 20 Jun 2014 1pm

Viruses, spyware, malware & other wares: Forget the terminology, they’re all nasty

I just lost an argument, and I lost it fair and square.

Several times in this column I have stated that Apple Computers encourage a campaign of false and misleading advertising by stating that “Macs don’t get PC viruses.” If you examine that claim from a strictly legalistic perspective, I admit it is technically a true statement. Macs don’t get PC viruses - Macs get Mac viruses!

When discussing the subject of computer viruses today, it is only a matter of time before somebody either expresses confusion over or gets pedantic about the correct usage of the word “virus.” It is difficult enough to discuss this technical subject of computer security, and for everyone to agree on the nature of the problem, without having the discussions derailed by specious quibbling over semantics.

In vernacular usage, the word “virus” has become a catch-all for any and all kinds of malware, trojan, spyware, keystroke logger, root kit, exploit, worm, hijack, and yes, even viruses. Strictly speaking a computer virus is defined as an infection that is self replicating. The “Elk Cloner” virus back in 1981 was such a virus, or to be specific; it was an Apple virus. The recent Mac “virus,” Flashback, is technically a trojan or drive-by install and not a virus.

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