Heard the one about a Mac not getting a virus? Well think again. Security specialist Sophos has just released the first free of charge Mac anti-virus product which is aimed at consumers.

The business-focused internet security firm is making Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition for Mac available for download at no charge – with no time limit, and requiring no registration.

What’s on offer is a cut-down version of the existing Sophos anti-virus software for Macs and will ship with detection of thousands of malware strains including Trojans and rootkits.

So why this focus on Mac users?

It’s an attempt by Sophos to shift perceptions. The company knows that many Mac users aren’t convinced that their Macs actually need any anti-malware protection. Having the technology to suppress it suggests that there is a threat.

Here’s what Chris Kraft, product management vice president at Sophos says: “While most businesses recognise the importance of protecting their Mac computers from malware threats, most home users do not.”

Will they be able to win this battle for hearts and minds?

Sophos admit that Windows threats counted in their millions dwarf the number of strains of Mac malware, which can be counted in their thousands, but maintained there was a need for protection, whatever sales people in Apple Stores might say to the contrary. “We want to raise awareness,” say Sophos.

It’s a battle lots of firms in creative industries — a traditional haven for all things Apple — will watch with interest.

NB: Sophos has no plans to release an equivalent free of charge Windows anti-malware scanner.