Macs are much safer online machines than Windows PCs, a recent report confirms.

In order to understand the effects of online computer viruses and spyware, Consumer Reports carried out an extensive survey across 3,200 US households.

Based on the extensive research, the report categorically states: "Macs are safer than Windows PCs for some online hazards. Only 20 per cent of Mac owners surveyed reported detecting a virus in the past two years, compared with 66 per cent of Windows PC owners. Just 8 per cent of Mac users reported a spyware infection in the last six months against 54 per cent of Windows PC users."

Protection is not enough

The report also informs that over $9 billion has been spent in the past two years fixing problems caused by such bad software bugs. This reflects badly on the $2.6 billion US consumers spent on software to protect themselves when online. The report also looks at the various risks of spam and fraudulent emails.

It reports that most threats are worse than they were one year ago, though protection software has also become "better than ever".

MacObserver points out that some information isn't contained within the report. This includes which breeds of the Mac OS have been affected or whether identified viruses actually infected the machines. There is no known virus for Mac OS X, compared to many thousands for Windows XP – so the 20 per cent figure has been queried by many on the Macworld Forum. Have your say here.

Consumer Reports responded: "It would be beyond the scope of the project to evaluate specific versions of each operating system."

System biodiversity a need, not an option

In October 2003, UK security researcher mi2g said that viruses and worms aimed mostly at Windows systems cost users $64.5 billion in productivity loss, hardware and software upgrades and recovery in the third-quarter of this year.

Mi2g CEO DK Matai then stressed a need to create networks based on multiple computer systems in order to protect crucial data.

"In order to slow down the rapid spread of viruses, it's important to have a diverse range of operating systems and servers," he said.