Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Do You Need AV on a Mac?

I get asked that from time to time. But usually, I’m not asked, I’m told. “I don’t need all that *crud*. I’m on a Mac.”
Usually, but not always, there’s a certain tone the speaker adopts when uttering that Standard Line (read, “dogma”) that conveys a smug superiority.. but, hey, everyone’s entitled to a little.. uh, delusion or two in my book. Keeps life interesting.

Basis in fact: There are some reasons for this don’t-need-an-antivirus belief system. One is, Apple itself has promoted the idea. Another is, there were hardly any (and at some points in history, no, zero, zip, nada) viruses / trojans / worms / etc. written to exploit the Mac OS. And even now, they’re considered “rare”.

Cyber-criminals (aka “hackers”) knew that less than 5% of computers were Macs, and essentially none of the “pots of gold” (database servers) were running the Mac OS.. so why write a attack program? (Apple products have been proven quite “hackable” – iTunes, QuickTime, Safari actually rank quite high on the list. See, Firefox More Secure? Tops ‘Most Vulnerable’ List) Answer– There’s basically nothing to attack with it.

Then and now: But, that was before Vista; and, the “I’m a Mac” series of television commercials. Now, instead of approximately 1-in-20 PC’s being Macs, it’s more like 1-in-10. Now, the idea of a all-Mac botnet has some merit (and a true Mac fan will tell you, all the Windows PC’s have already been taken!). An all-Mac botnet wouldn’t be all that big.. but the new numbers mean it’d be big enough for some uses…

So, sure enough, some enterprising criminal wrote a backdoor worm and glued it to a copy of iWork ’09 and posted it to several of the torrent sites, knowing that Mac-using folks who don’t like paying for things would download and install it.
Voilà, we got us an all-Mac botnet.
[note: this has happened before, to Mac+LimeWire² users; see, Firms discover Trojan horse targeted at Mac OS X]

Someone has named this worm “iServices.A”, which is much more rational and.. nicer (ahem) than what I might have named it. This worm allows the hacker to do pretty much what he wants with the infected machine, which so far appears to be sending boatloads of spam to specific URL’s, in what is called a “denial of service” attack (the flood of messages overloads the server, and causes it to ‘crash’/shutdown)(see, Our Modern Nightmare – Zombie Attack)

Me? I have consistently advised installing an AV, no matter what platform/OS you’re running, just as I consistently advise making backup copies of your files, (yes, I have been accused of being a bit of a “belt-and-suspenders” man) for one very simple reason — what is the cost if you do, versus what is the (potential) cost if you don’t?
Plus.. it’s simple math: the more popular Macs get, the more they’ll be targeted.

Feel free to disagree, but you won’t get me to change my mind. My Tiger machine has antivirus onboard.. though I don’t know why I bothered, I never turn the thing on.

Today’s free link(s):
* Brian Krebs has an absolutely great article detailing this worm, and I leave it to him to make what may be the most important point on the subject–
“Leaving aside (hopefully) the question of whether Mac users need anti-virus, I’ve tried to impress upon readers the importance of avoiding risky behaviors online that could jeopardize the security of their systems. The reality is that installing programs downloaded from P2P networks is about the most insecure practice a computer user can engage in,¹ regardless of the operating system in use.

This is why I think it’s important to call out this Trojan. Yes, it infects Macs, and that’s something we don’t see very often. But it’s also a teachable moment to remind readers that no security software is going to protect the user who is intent on installing software that may be tainted with malware, as long as that user is willing to ignore any advice (or alerts) to the contrary.

I highly recommend you read the whole article, Pirated iWork Software Infects Macs With Trojan Horse. Once you do, I think you’ll understand why he’s on my Blogroll.

* Blogroll member Bill Mullins posted an article that takes a look at the P2P “phenomenon” that I also highly recommend, Peer to Peer File Sharing – Evaluate the Risks – Consider the Trade-Offs

* And this article is a very good answer to the question, Is Mac still the safer bet?

¹ emphasis, mine.
² A very popular BitTorrent-style peer-to-peer program.

* One last thought.. anyone care to guess what percentage of people’s machines that I look at in my “real job” have LimeWire installed?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 25, 2009 - Posted by | advice, antivirus, Apple, computers, cyber crime, hackers, News, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Great article – clearly sets out the risks of running a system with little, or no AV protection.

    Apple has done a great disservice to the Internet community, by propagating the myth that Macs are inherently more secure than PCs.

    Your article addresses this myth in a forthright manner, that shatters this illusion held by many Mac users.

    Thanks.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. thank you:) very much

    Like

    Comment by cep | January 26, 2009 | Reply


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