On Mac’s and Viruses

As most people are keenly aware, Macintoshes running OS X are really not affected by viruses that currently plague the users of Microsoft based operating systems. There have been some proof of concept viruses that could theoretically attack a Macintosh, but most of those require some sort of actively give the virus permission to run. There was a story a couple of years back of some guy who was trying to download a copy of MS Office for Mac from a file sharing network. He downloaded a file which he thought was office even though the file was less than a megabyte in size. Once downloaded the program asked for his password and proceeded to delete his entire home directory which contains all of your user data. Of course, a file that is less than a megabyte could not possibly be MS Office, and you should never trust filesharing networks as a legitimate source of software. This case illustrates the weak link in the equation, the person behind the keyboard. On most of the Windows machines that I work on that are infected with spyware/viruses, most of them get infected because of poor judgement on the users behalf. People will blindly go to dubious internet sites and try to download pirated software or music files and as a result, there computers become really infected with spyware and viruses. There are some pretty bad spyware programs now that will act as keyloggers and steal passwords to financial websites, or more commonly, will turn your machine into a zombie that is under the control of some computer hacker. Mac users are generally immune to this sort of thing, but complacency may be a bad thing. There are no shortage of software companies hawking their anti-spyware software for Mac’s (in fact I received a free copy of some at Macworld) but it should be unnecessary. If more users used better judgement when browsing the internet, most of these attacks/outbreaks would be stopped. I read an article on Lowend Mac about viruses, and it does sum up to and extent what mac users should be doing:

It’s still good etiquette to get yourself a copy of a virus scanner, if for no other reason than to prevent the spread of PC viruses.

If you take a few simple precautions, you should remain free of trouble.

  • Do not download software from untrusted sources.
  • Do not open email attachments from unknown sources.
  • Stay away from filesharing sites and application
  • If you are using windows, use Firefox as your browser.

Keeping these four ideas in mind should help you in about 90% of all spyware/virus problems.


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