Thursday, July 10, 2008

Do we now need anti-virus software on our Macintosh computers?

I haven't used any anti-virus software for years myself, and I currently don't advise anti-virus software for my clients, except in the case of one client who was receiving Microsoft Office macro-viruses in files attached to email (for which we installed Intego's anti-virus software).

It is actually a little amazing to me that we have had 7 years of virus-free computing in Mac OS X, when there are 100s of thousands of viruses for the Windows PCs. Even the original Macintosh OS had a few viruses as far back as Mac OS 6 such as one that infected us via our floppy disks. So Macs have had viruses in the past. So three cheers for Apple, Bell Labs, Carnegie Mellon University, UC Berkeley and all the other people who contributed to the foundation of OS X. That said, I think that we will probably be needing anti-virus software one day--when I have no idea. Viruses are not released by bored hackers these days--criminal groups are using them to make money.

With regards to internet connections, at home or work, I recommend that people connect via a router which provides some protection as it acts like a secretary, managing all incoming and outgoing communication. Apple routers are very convenient to set up, so for Mac users, I think they are fine. However I don't think that Airports are ideal for people with PCs. Criminals have taken control of thousands of PCs and used them for illegal activity without their owners even knowing about it. For a rather shocking example of that, search Google for "storm botnet" (a botnet is a group of computers controlled by people without permission of the computers' owners). One router comparison/review suggested that PC users should only use routers that have additional firewall security called SPI (stateful packet inspection) where the router is looking at the "packets" of data passing through it. Apple doesn't include it, but I am sure they will if it becomes necessary.

If you are going online while traveling, I think that it would be a good idea to look into secure connections if you are connecting to your bank account, etc. This article discusses some options:

And I would recommend that you have your firewall turned on in System Preferences/Sharing. Also I turn off all the Services in Sharing unless I have a reason to keep them on, such as sharing files with another computer.

And if someone releases a virus that successfully attacks Macs, I am sure that we will hear about it. As far as I know, you can't create an anti-virus for a virus that doesn't exist yet.

But, with regards to the trojan found recently, we as Mac users will now need to watch what software programs we download. Get your software from a reputable company.


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