Apple Macs running the Mac OS X operating system are just as vulnerable to viruses and other threats as Windows PCs are. That's according to Symantec software architect Ollie Whitehouse who made the claims in an interview with Tech.co.uk.

"Apple has been demonstrated to suffer a number of vulnerabilities over the years," he said. "Suffice to say that Symantec and other software security vendors do produce anti-virus software for the Mac because we believe there is the potential of a problem."

Whitehouse says that there are a few key reasons why the Mac is not targeted very often.

"When you look at the percentage of the desktop market, Apple versus Windows, Apple is very small comparatively. So that's one big reason why Macs are not targeted like PCs are," he said

Apple Mac viruses just around corner?

He also stressed that it is also partly down to the fact that Mac users tend to be more technically aware, and more canny than PC users.

"I believe in part that historically the user base of Apple products are more technically knowledgeable - they're a bit wiser," he said. "So they're not necessarily as susceptible to the typical confidence tricks and so forth."

But he did predict that as the iPhone raises the profile of Macs among PC users and gains market share, Mac OS X could begin to suffer from similar security issues as experienced by Windows users on a regular basis.

"Over time, as the Mac user base increases they will no doubt become a more tantalising target again. As Microsoft invests vast amounts of cash into trying to secure Windows, people may try to look for soft spots elsewhere, and the second player is Apple.

Malicious emails

"I don't think it's impossible that viruses will start appearing on the Macintosh platform. How likely is another point. We see regularly on a monthly bases new vulnerabilities being disclosed in Apple software.

"It suffers the same types of problems as the Windows platform, it's no less susceptible it's just that no-one has targeted it on a grand scale.

"Why? Partly because if I sent out a million emails with a malicious attachment and it's an executable for Windows there's a good chance that a large proportion of those that receive it will be Windows users. To locate and target a lot of Apple Mac users is actually relatively hard."

Many experienced Mac users will no-doubt disagree with the idea that Macs are susceptible to viruses in the same way Windows is. Apple does have a relatively good track record when it comes to software security so it will be interesting to see whether Whitehouse's prediction comes true or not.