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antivirus needed?

269 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Jan 14, 2013 7:58 PM by Topher Kessler RSS
docbones4 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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Jan 14, 2013 5:11 AM

Does anyone actually use an antivirus program for MacBook Pro Mountain Lion?

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7.1)
  • CT Level 6 Level 6 (14,955 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 5:23 AM (in response to docbones4)

    Yes, some do.  Many - probably most - don't. 

     

    Personally, I think such programs are a nuisance and a waste of resources, at this time anyway.

    (Unless you run Windows on your Mac, of course.)

     

    If you've got a few hours free, read the dissertation by Linc Davis here:

     

    https://discussions.apple.com/message/20899922#20899922

     

    I think it is pretty definitive.

     

    charlie

  • Michael Allbritton Level 6 Level 6 (16,140 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 6:10 AM (in response to docbones4)

    Like CT I do not use anti-virus software on my Mac. I do not feel it is needed. Read the link provided by CT, I think you will probably agree.

  • macjack Level 9 Level 9 (50,445 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 6:21 AM (in response to docbones4)

    No AV here either. No known viruses for Mac.

    Also, Mac has built-in Xprotect with daily updates. It runs seamlessly in the background and you don't even know it's there unless you encounter a problem.

  • softwater Level 5 Level 5 (5,370 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 6:54 AM (in response to docbones4)

    You'll find that people who use AV programs have exactly the same experience as those that don't: their macs are not infected by viruses.

     

    The only difference as far as I can see is that those who use them sometimes suffer from bugs, system slowdowns and - in the case of those that paid money - a lighter wallet.

     

    I suspect you can figure out yourself which group you want to belong to.

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (107,390 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 11:10 AM (in response to docbones4)

    1. This comment applies to malicious software ("malware") that's installed unwittingly by the victim of a network attack. It does not apply to software, such as keystroke loggers, that may be installed deliberately by an intruder who has hands-on access to the victim's computer. That threat is in a different category, and there's no easy way to defend against it. If you have reason to suspect that you're the target of such an attack, you need expert help.

    2. All versions of OS X since 10.6.7 have been able to detect known Mac malware in downloaded files, and to block insecure web plugins. This feature is transparent to the user, but internally Apple calls it "XProtect." The malware recognition database is automatically updated once a day; however, you shouldn't rely on it, because the attackers are always at least a day ahead of the defenders.
       
    The following caveats apply to XProtect:
    • It can be bypassed by some third-party networking software, such as BitTorrent clients and Java applets (see below.)
    • It only applies to software downloaded from the network. Software installed from a CD or other media is not checked.
    3. Starting with OS X 10.7.5, there has been another layer of built-in malware protection, designated "Gatekeeper" by Apple. By default, applications and Installer packages downloaded from the network will only run if they're digitally signed by a developer with a certificate issued by Apple. Software certified in this way hasn't actually been tested by Apple (unless it comes from the Mac App Store), but you can be reasonably sure that it hasn't been modified by anyone other than the developer. His identity is known to Apple, so he could be held legally responsible if he distributed malware. For most practical purposes, applications recognized by Gatekeeper as signed can be considered safe.
       
    Gatekeeper has, however, the same limitations as XProtect, and in addition the following:
    • It can easily be disabled or overridden by the user.
    • A malware attacker could get control of a code-signing certificate under false pretenses, or could find some other way to evade Apple's controls.
    For more information about Gatekeeper, see this Apple Support article.
             
    4. Beyond XProtect and Gatekeeper, there’s no benefit, in most cases, from any other automated protection against malware. The first and best line of defense is always your own intelligence. All known malware circulating on the Internet that affects a fully-updated installation of OS X 10.6 or later takes the form of so-called "trojan horses," which can only have an effect if the victim is duped into running them. The threat therefore amounts to a battle of wits between you and the malware attacker. If you're smarter than he thinks you are, you'll win.
        
    That means, in practice, that you never use software that comes from an untrustworthy source. How do you know whether a source is trustworthy?
    • Any website that prompts you to install a “codec,” “plug-in,” "player," "archive extractor," or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown one, is untrustworthy.
    • A web operator who tells you that you have a “virus,” or that anything else is wrong with your computer, or that you have won a prize in a contest you never entered, is trying to commit a crime with you as the victim. (Some reputable websites did legitimately warn users who were infected with the "DNSChanger" malware. That exception to this rule no longer applies.)
    • Pirated copies or "cracks" of commercial software, no matter where they come from, are unsafe.
    • Software of any kind downloaded from a BitTorrent or from a Usenet binary newsgroup is unsafe.
    • Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, must be downloaded directly from the developer’s website. If it comes from any other source, it's unsafe.
    5. Java on the Internet (not to be confused with JavaScript, to which it's not related, despite the similarity of the names) is a weak point in the security of any system. Java is, among other things, a platform for running complex applications in a web page. Its developers have had a lot of trouble getting it to do this without also creating a portal for malware to enter. Past Java exploits are the closest thing there has ever been to a Windows-style "virus" in OS X. Merely loading a page with malicious Java content could be harmful.
       
    Java is not included in OS X 10.7 and later. A separate Java installer is distributed by Apple, and another one by Oracle (the developer of Java.) Don't use either one unless you need it. If Java is installed, disable it — not JavaScript — in your browsers. In Safari, this is done by unchecking the box marked Enable Java in the Security tab of the preferences dialog. Few websites have Java content nowadays, so you probably won’t be missing much.
      
    Regardless of version, experience has shown that Java on the Web can't be trusted. If you must use a Java applet for a specific task, enable Java only when needed for the task and disable it immediately when done. Close all other browser windows and tabs, and don't visit any other sites while Java is active. Eliminate Java from your online workflow whenever possible. If a web page prompts you to use Java to do something that can be done without it, such as streaming video or downloading files, don't.

    Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be as safe from malware as you can reasonably be.

    6. Never install any commercial "anti-virus" or "Internet security" products for the Mac, as they all do more harm than good, if they do any good at all. If you need to be able to detect Windows malware in your files, use the free software ClamXav — nothing else.
      
    Why shouldn't you use commercial "anti-virus" products?
    • Their design is predicated on the nonexistent threat that malware may be injected at any time, anywhere in the file system. Malware is downloaded from the network; it doesn't materialize from nowhere.
    • In order to meet that nonexistent threat, the software modifies or duplicates low-level functions of the operating system, which is a waste of resources and a common cause of instability, bugs, and poor performance.
    • By modifying the operating system, the software itself may create weaknesses that could be exploited by malware attackers.
    7. ClamXav doesn't have these drawbacks. That doesn't mean it's entirely safe. It may report email messages that have "phishing" links in the body, or Windows malware in attachments, as infected files, and offer to delete or move them. Doing so will corrupt the Mail database. The messages should be deleted from within the Mail application.
        
    ClamXav is not needed, and should not be relied upon, for protection against OS X malware. It's useful only for detecting Windows malware. Windows malware can't harm you directly (unless, of course, you use Windows.) Just don't pass it on to anyone else.
        
    A Windows malware attachment in email is usually easy to recognize. The file name will often be targeted at people who aren't very bright; for example:
      
    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥!!!!!!!H0TBABEZ4U!!!!!!!.AVI♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.exe
       
    ClamXav may be able to tell you which particular virus or trojan it is, but do you care? In practice, there's seldom a reason to use ClamXav unless a network administrator requires you to run an anti-virus application.
        
    8. The greatest harm done by anti-virus software, in my opinion, is in its effect on human behavior. It does little or nothing to protect people from emerging threats, but they get a false sense of security from it, and then they may behave in ways that expose them to higher risk. Nothing can lessen the need for safe computing practices.
      
    9. It seems to be a common belief that the built-in Application Firewall acts as a barrier to infection, or prevents malware from functioning. It does neither. It blocks inbound connections to certain network services you're running, such as file sharing. It's disabled by default and you should leave it that way if you're behind a router on a private home or office network. Activate it only when you're on an untrusted network, for instance a public Wi-Fi hotspot, where you don't want to provide services. Disable any services you don't use in the Sharing preference pane. All are disabled by default.

  • MadMacs0 Level 4 Level 4 (3,315 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 6:58 PM (in response to docbones4)

    docbones4 wrote:

     

    Does anyone actually use an antivirus program for MacBook Pro Mountain Lion?

    Here is what I consider to be an excellent article by Rich Mogull on that subject which was just published today Do You Need Mac Antivirus Software in 2013?

  • Topher Kessler Level 6 Level 6 (9,295 points)
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    Jan 14, 2013 7:58 PM (in response to docbones4)

    I have AV software installed, but do not have it configured for on-access scanning. I've done this for numerous Macs I've worked with, and I've never had any problems having the OS configured with these programs. Some of these programs are more intrusive than others (ie, they include firewalls, on-access scanners, and other active components that can destabilize the system if bugs are present), but most can be configured to have negligible (if any) impact on the system.

     

    However, whether or not you need AV software is up to you and your computing practices. With proper observation of safe computing practices you can avoid most if not all malicious online activity, but for those who doubt themselves or who might be using their systems then it is one of several tools that can be used to help manage the potential of threats.

     

    Granted the number of malware threats for OS X are minimal, but they are there and if you are at all worried about them then one option is to use these tools to periodically check your system. Keep in mind these tools are just options to help, and are only useful retroactively once malware threats have been identified and defined.

     

    One last benefit of AV software is that it can help identify Windows malware, such that may be attached to junk mail and other messages in your inbox. Any of this malware wont hurt your Mac, but being present may be inadvertently forwarded to others with Windows PCs who may be harmed by it.

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