Is it time to protect your Apple Mac from Malware?

There was a time when Apple Macs were immune from malware and viruses simply did not exist for OS X. One of the Mac’s selling points is that it could not get viruses. Sadly this is no longer true and if you have not yet installed security software on your Mac, you should do so soon. Avast is a free antivirus app for OS X that will keep your Mac safe.

Only recently two news stories broke about Mac security and one reported that it has been discovered that if malware is placed in Thunderbolt devices it can infect the Mac and also spread to other Thunderbolt devices. In another story OS X uses NTP (Network Time Protocol) and there was a critical security issue with it that required a patch from Apple. The security flaw enabled remote hackers to execute code on your Mac.

Malware attacks are becoming too common to ignore and while it is still possible to use a Mac without security software, it is increasingly risky. You are not even saving any money because some security applications for the Mac are free, such as Avast.

This app provides three types of shield, a file system shield, a mail shield and a web shield.

The file shield scans apps and files on the disk drive for malware and it does this in the background while you use your Mac. It isn’t something you will notice, but you can see it working if you open the program, select Shields on the left and File System Shield on the right.

Background scanning just looks at the files you access and to perform a thorough scan of all the files on the disk drive there are Full, Removable Volumes and Custom Scans. A full scan will scan everywhere, a removable volumes scan looks at devices like USB disk drives, and a custom scan is useful when you want to check a particular location, such as the Documents folder or the Applications folder.

Avast for OS X

After two years without any security software on my Mac, it has found no infected files. Mac malware is still rare, but it is better to add protection before you get infected and not afterwards.

The Mail Shield checks incoming email messages for malware. It depends on who your email provider is and some will automatically check for malicious attachments before passing messages on to you. Not all do, so the Mail Shield is useful for unprotected email accounts. It is also a useful backup even if your email provider does scan for viruses.

The Web shield protects in three ways. It checks that websites you visit are OK and are not associated with malware, and it checks Google, Bing and Yahoo! search results. Green ticks appear next to results to show that they are OK. However, this only works in Chrome and Not Safari.

Presumably there is a red cross or something against bad websites in search results. I would show an example, but Google, Bing and Yahoo! searches only seem to produce good clean results.

The third benefit of the Web Shield is the prevention of tracking. Click the button in the Chrome toolbar and a panel slides out with details showing how the current website is tracking you. There are switches to turn off tracking technologies like social networks, ad tracking, web analytics and others.

It is hard to persuade Mac users that they need security software, but reports of malware and hacking are becoming more common these days. Avast is a free utility that runs in the background and you will not notice that it is there.

I always turn to companies like AV Test to see how good security software really is. They have a vast number of Windows viruses and a small, but growing collection of OS X viruses. Last September the company tested 18 security packages for Mac OS X and Avast was among the better ones. It wasn’t the best and it wasn’t the worst. It detected 97.4% of malware (the worst, Webroot, only caught 19.7%). Virus scanners affect the Mac’s performance to some degree, but Avast was again among the good group and it doesn’t slow down the Mac noticeably.

AV Comparatives has also tested Mac antivirus software against 65 recent malware samples. Avast detected all of them in this case.

Bearing in mind that Avast is free, the results show that it actually offers quite good protection. 

 

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2

I tried Sophos for Mac. Though it is free I don't think it displays real threat to the Macs. Whats your take?

<p>Sophos is good according to the test results I have seen and it detects Mac and Windows malware.</p>

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