Parallel Desktops

Anti-virus software and Macs

Yesterday’s Washington Post Security Fix disclosed that on November 21st of this year Apple put out a technical note where they recommend the widespread use of anti-virus software for Macs, including specific recommendations for Mac AV utilities.

I’ve never believed the "Macs cannot get a virus" mantra that some people spread. The reality is that any computer where the user has the ability to write to the hard drive or install applications is subject to a program doing evil deeds without their knowledge.

I’ve been a Mac user for 10 months now—a relative neophyte—but have learned a couple of things that have carried over from my Windows days. The single most important one is to be very careful about which software I allow to get installed on my Mac. When I install something that comes from the web I get a little confirmation dialog:

In addition when I try to run full installation programs I will often get prompted to enter the administrative password for my Mac:

Some applications, like those based on Adobe AIR’s development platform include their own warning dialog:

In all of these cases it’s critical to stop and think about what you are doing. This is a virtual knock on your door where you get a chance to either turn someone away or let them in your home. It’s critical that you take a moment and think about what you are doing; don’t just blindly enter your password or allow software to be installed. If you have gotten into the habit of blowing past these dialogs then you need to stop doing that and think it through.

The other thing is to stay current with Software Update. When that little globe is bouncing on my Dock Bar I generally install the updates that it recommends.

Do you run anti-virus software on your Mac? Though I’m very cautious with my own machines I do worry that my wife and teenage children will not be as diligent.


By David Alison

I bought my first Mac almost 24 years ago when DOS ruled the world. I didn't keep it too long though. I was just kicking off my career as a software engineer and needed to go with PCs. I bought my 2nd Mac in February of 2008. I didn't expect that I would find myself using the machine as much as I have. It's not that I hate Windows (well, I pretty much hate Vista but XP is a fine OS), it's just that I find myself constantly playing with this machine.

I'll share with you here my experiences of making the move from Windows to Macintosh. I still have a foot in both worlds, hence the name of my section.

2 replies on “Anti-virus software and Macs”

I don’t but I don’t go to questionable sites, nor do I allow my computer to install anything that I don’t initiate the process. Apple has begun to suggest that an anti-virus is or will soon be necessary because the percent of Apple users is increasing and will soon attract more of the bad guys. Apple itself recommends Intego VirusBarrier X4, Norton Anti-Virus for Macintosh by Symantec, and Virex by McAfee. I don’t doubt it will soon become a necessity.

i have never thought the imac was really virus-proof. 10 years ago, i lost a complete harddrive to that famous mac trojan EVEN though i had nortons anti-virus with all the updates. truthfully, i have just gotten lazy and complacent these last 3 years.
despite all the good press, i have never liked McAfee, so i have been lax in looking for another solution but, after reading the notice today, i started doing research, discovered nortons has an anti-virus for mac, and intend on getting that.
i don’t believe that macs are as vulnerable as the pcs but why take a chance?

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