Viruses and Malware, and Apple

So far there are no viruses for the Mac platform…
and there have been no real viruses for Macs for at least 15 years. The biggest problem Macs have in common with PC users is Spam – unsolicited emails.

Apple Mail’s junk filter used to be fairly effective at coping with Spam but if you have your email address published on a website somewhere, you could be deluged. In that case a third party app like the excellent SpamSieve (which I use) is great.

Why is OS 10 so secure?
From Mac OS X v10.5 the following major security enhancements were added

  1. Better Trojan horse protection (10.5 marks files that are downloaded to help prevent users from running malicious downloaded applications).
  2. Stronger runtime security including library randomisation and ‘sandboxing’ to help prevent attacks.
  3. Easier network security (the new Mac OS X v10.5 firewall configures itself so you get the benefits of firewall protection without understanding network details).
  4. Improved secure connectivity for VPN without additional software.
  5. Since then, Apple has made many refinements and advances to the OS X (and iOS) security systems.

Apple has released a downloadable PDF security guide for administrators (not for the fainthearted.

Basic steps you can you take for better safety
Make sure ‘open Safe files after downloading’ is NOT turned on in Safari’s preferences under General.

  1. Turn off Enable Java in Safari>Preferences>Security if you’re worried about Java exploits. Java can also be turned off in FireFox etc. Java animations will no longer run in Safari with this unchecked. Note: this avenue was closed by Apple’s recent QuickTime 7.1.6 update.
  2. Don’t get Macros for Microsoft Word 2004 emailed to you, or off websites. MS Word macros are a potential avenue into your Mac to spread malware. Microsoft Office:Mac 2008 is more secure since it does not support macros.
  3. Install every Apple Security Update that comes out by checking weekly in Software Update in System Preferences (you can set this to check regularly by itself, and warn you of pending updates you can install). With Security Updates, Apple is identifying loopholes virus writers could use then closing them. This is an effective, pre-emptive strategy Apple takes on its users’ behalf.
  4. Anti viral software: I have found this unnecessary and not worth the performance hit. I haven’t used any for eight years. I will note on this site if anti-viral software ever becomes prudent, and if so, what you should use. If you still don’t feel secure, I suggest you download and install the free Sophos Mac antivirus software which is fast, protective, unobtrusive and which updates itself. (PCTools also makes a supported, multi-user, paid version.)

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Apple Mac, iPhone & iPad news for New Zealanders

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