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Apple's Intel switch doesn't spell security doom

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Apple's switch to Intel chips does not spell the start of Windows PC-style security problems for Macs, experts say.

Macs will have the same hardware at their core as Windows PCs but it is the operating system, not the hardware, that has made those Microsoft-based computers vulnerable to attacks, analysts and security researchers said.

Dana Gardner, a senior analyst at research firm the Yankee Group, said: "Mac OS has generally a better track record and reputation than Windows for security. I don't think taking Mac OS to Intel silicon would change the robustness of the operating system."

The Mac OS enjoys a reputation as a secure operating system, with far fewer flaws than Windows. So far, it has largely been immune to the worms and viruses that have hit Microsoft-based systems. That is unlikely to change with the shift announced on Monday from niche Power PC processors to mainstream Intel hardware.

Theoretically, though, it is possible that security flaws in lower-level system software could be used to attack both Windows and Mac computers, several security experts said. However, such attacks, for example on the system BIOS, are rare. Furthermore, it is not known if Apple will use the same low-level software common in Windows PCs, the experts said.

Another unknown is to what level Intel will customise its chip products for Apple.

Russ Cooper, a senior scientist at security provider Cybertrust of Herndon, said: "The fact that Macs are running the same processors as Windows PCs may mean that some code can be executed on both platforms. But I don't think that virus writers are writing at that level, so it is probably not going to have any security implications."

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