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Macs and malware: An ounce of prevention. [ESET, Apple]

Client Computing | Posted on November 15, 2010 by Stephen Perciballi

Okay, you don’t like seatbelts. Too confining, you say. You drive carefully, right? Or, you only use your car for short trips around the block. Of course, that all may sound pretty persuasive until you have an accident – and your arguments, among other things, fly out the window.

Which brings me to the ongoing debate about Mac security superiority and whether it’s worth protecting Mac computers with anti-virus software. While most Mac users believe they’re invincible as far as viruses, spyware, trojans, worms and other malware go – and for the most part they have been till now – there’s no guarantee that’ll continue to be the case as Macs gain in popularity and hackers are more financially motivated to infect them.

Software consultant and blogger Graham Cluley writes:

“With many Apple users incorrectly believing that they are somehow immune from the problem of internet security threats, there is the risk that Mac users are making themselves a soft target for future hacker attacks.” (Mac’s aren’t totally immune themselves – there have been 400 confirmed vulnerabilities affecting Mac OS X.)

But there’s another, probably more important, reason to protect seemingly invincible Macs. Even if they’re unaffected by viruses, they may still be carriers – passing around nasty stuff to unsuspected folks with PCs.

IT security expert Dave Whitelegg writes:

“Macs have been known to harbour Windows based malware, malware which could make its way from the Mac via file sharing on to Windows PCs. Just because Windows malware does not work on the Mac, it does not mean it cannot be stored on a Mac drive, and if that Mac has no anti-virus protection, then the malware files on the Mac drive are never checked for Windows malware…”

While that may be less of a concern for home computers, it’s a clear and present danger for businesses that function in a cross-platform networked environment where PCs and Macs live and work together.

In other words, even if your work environment is exclusively Mac, it’s unlikely that all your clients are. You might not know you’re infecting them until it’s too late and they’re reviewing their relationship with your business.

Luckily a variety of security solutions providers – most recently ESET – are significantly ramping up their Mac anti-virus portfolios or integrating Mac defense software into their PC anti-virus products.

At least these companies are taking Ben Franklin’s old advice to heart: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He surely wasn’t talking about computer viruses, but he may as well have been.

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