Firefox, Mac Not Immune to Flaws, Viruses

Symantec has some bad news for Macintosh and Mozilla users. According to a recent report by the security firm, neither Mac OS X nor Firefox is as secure as proponents claim.

The firm said that during the first six months of 2005, 25 vulnerabilities were discovered that affected the Mozilla family of browsers, versus only 13 for Internet Explorer. Furthermore, 18 of Mozilla's and 8 of IE's vulnerabilities were considered "high severity."

In fact, Mozilla led all browsers in terms of disclosed security flaws. But Symantec cautioned about reading too much into the significant difference between the number of flaws disclosed for either browser.

"The fact that Mozilla browsers had the most vendor confirmed vulnerabilities over the past two six-month periods may suggest that Mozilla is currently acknowledging and fixing vulnerabilities more quickly than other vendors," Symantec wrote in the report.

The firm also said the overall increase in flaws uncovered in Web browsers could be in response to browser makers becoming more proactive in protecting their users.

Mac OS X users are also targets for attacks, Symantec said. During the period, the company noted several new attacks being targeted at the platform, which it blames on Apple's recent successes.

"Many of these users believe that this operating system and the applications that run on it are immune to traditional security concerns," the firm wrote. "However, evidence suggests that, increasingly, they may be operating under a false sense of security."

Since Mac OS X is based on Unix, Symantec says problems due to flaws within the BSD version of Unix used by Apple may eventually surface, and are likely to increase in number. The firm did say that the number of vulnerabilities has stayed constant, however it could "change at any time."

Symantec recommended in the report that Mac users stay safe by using antivirus software, as trojans such as Mac OS X/Weapox have been shown to infiltrate the operating system's defenses.

It should be noted that Symantec offers antivirus and related security solutions for both Windows and Mac OS X, and relies on customers purchasing its products to stay in business.

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