The debate resumes over Mac security

A revised Apple support doc told users to run antivirus apps; then it was yanked

Mac OS X inherently secure

In Computerworld's OS Smackdown, I touted the inherent security of Mac OS X as a major selling point, given that Macs are less susceptible to virus outbreaks than Windows-based PCs. Given the rarity of Mac exploits and the lengths malware authors must go to if they hope to successfully breach the Mac OS, I'd say nothing has changed since then. There are still no reports of self-propagating malware that can automatically infect a Mac by installing itself and then spreading itself to other computers. Even this latest Trojan horse requires visits to Web sites that almost anyone would be wary of and requires an administrator's password to actually install malicious code.

This is the technological equivalent of unlocking your door and helping a burglar pack your TV into his van.

And as menacing as the Intego statement sounds, I'm unaware of any Web browser that automatically commences an installation. Even when Safari's "Open safe files after downloading" option is selected, any software installation still requires the admin password. For most businesses and colleges, this isn't an issue because end users won't know that password, cutting off malware drama before it begins.

That's not to discount the value of security, however. Ultimately, Mac users have to be good Net citizens.

Antivirus software doesn't just help Mac users

I spoke to Randy Rowles, lead Macintosh Desktop Engineer for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Orlando, about finding the best antivirus software for the Mac and why users might still want to install one. "Antivirus [software] for Macintosh is a good thing to consider -- not necessarily for your own protection, but for the protection of others," he said. "Even though your Macintosh may not be affected by the bulk of viruses traveling around the Internet, any e-mail you forward that has a virus attached can infect other folks that receive it. Having a good virus scanning solution on your Macintosh can help prevent the spread of viruses."

Rowles recently had to figure out which of three antivirus apps -- McAfee VirusScan, VirusBarrier from Intego and Norton AntiVirus for Mac -- would be best for the Mac users at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. "Each of the vendors offered similar options for protecting your Macintosh from virus infections, including the use of services for receiving updates and integration with Apple's Mail software."

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Michael deAgonia

Computerworld
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