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Mac security and anti virus

May 25th, 2011 | Posted by | Filed under Indianapolis IT support

There it is, the 800 lb gorilla is waiting. No one wants to talk about Mac security because they’ve been told and sold that Mac users don’t need to worry about viruses and other security issues like Windows users. Macs were considered safe because of the low number of devices out there compared to PCs. Criminals and hackers (crackers) wrote malware and viruses based on what would give them the best return, ie. steal more credit card numbers, bank passwords, etc. With PCs vastly outnumbering Macs the threats were almost entirely focused on PCs. With Apples’ meteoric rise in popularity and sales Macs have apparently hit the radar for some of the malware coders who are now targeting Macs. Technology headlines are abuzz with the latest threat to Macs that allow malware to install itself without requiring an administrator password or other user interaction named Mac Guard.

 

Now, to be clear, there is a simple way to thwart this threat and many argue it should be the default security setting on Safari browser’s on Macs.  Users may simply go to their Safari preferences, select the general tab and then uncheck ‘Open “safe” files after downloading’  By unchecking the default setting that allows files to download and open automatically you again take control over what is programs are installed and files opened on your system.

Secure Safari on Mac

So the next logical question that comes to mind, after asking how do I stop this attack from infecting my Mac, is how do I better protect my Mac from other threats in general.  Unfortunately, the answer is likely that you’ll now need to consider installing an antivirus and/or other malware protection.  With an antivirus program you begin to fall into the same categories of issues that plague PC users:

  • Which antivirus program to use and/or purchase
  • Are the free virus scanners as good as the paid ones
  • Computer slowdowns dues to antivirus running on your Mac
  • Updating and scanning your system

The good news is that there are many antivirus programs currently, and likely more to come with the press given to this threat Mac Guard (a variant and evolution of Mac Protector and Mac Defender).  Some of the names in Mac virus protection are familiar to the PC world and others may be new: Sophos free antivirus for home users and paid business editions, ESET Cybersecurity for Mac on Apple’s web store, Clam AV, and others.

Are Macs now doomed to persistent unheralded threats just like PCs?  I think the time is still a little ways off, but it is certainly time to take notice and address security on your Mac just as you do on your PC.  As with PC users, when people ask me how to best keep their systems safe, my first response is to be smart about where you go and what you do on the Internet and other networks.  However, even websites you would consider safe such as your aunt’s picture webpage of her trip to the Adirondack Mountains can be compromised by the server that hosts the site and infect your system with malware.  So, if users who are smart about their web surfing and don’t share USB thumb drives with their music sharing son can be infected, then the next step is to tighten down the security of your Mac and install additional programs to automatically protect your system.

 

It is not the end of days for Mac users, but rather should be considered a wake-up to see that all the hype saying that Mac users don’t need antivirus or need to worry about security may have been more due to an advantage of low market share and low interest by virus writers rather than security superiority over PCs.  I like Macs.  I’m writing this post on a Mac.  But security issues are not limited by operating system manufacturer.  More so it depends on the user, how the system is configured and how it is used.  We’ve seen Linux server grossly compromised because they’ve been setup incorrectly alongside Windows servers suffering the same.  Take some time to learn about the security tools and options available for your Mac and enjoy the zen experience Apple offers.

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