1 2 Previous Next 22 Replies Latest reply: May 30, 2014 7:58 AM by John Galt
diana252 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

What is the best virus protection for a Mac?

  • 2. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    thomas_r. Level 7 Level 7 (27,985 points)

    See my Mac Malware Guide:

     

    http://www.thesafemac.com/mmg

  • 3. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (118,350 points)

    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.
      
    OS X now implements three layers of built-in protection specifically against malware, not counting runtime protections such as execute disable, sandboxing, system library randomization, and address space layout randomization that may also guard against other kinds of exploits.

    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 checked for updates 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.
    • 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 a second 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 doesn't depend on a database of known malware. It 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.         
    4. Starting with OS X 10.8.3, a third layer of protection has been added: a "Malware Removal Tool" (MRT). MRT runs automatically in the background when you update the OS. It checks for, and removes, malware that may have evaded the other protections via a Java exploit (see below.) MRT also runs when you install or update the Apple-supplied Java runtime (but not the Oracle runtime.) Like XProtect, MRT is presumably effective against known attacks, but maybe not against unknown attacks. It notifies you if it finds malware, but otherwise there's no user interface to MRT.
     
    5. Beyond XProtect, Gatekeeper, and MRT, there’s no evidence of any benefit from other automated protection against malware. The first and best line of defense is always your own intelligence. With the possible exception of Java exploits, 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," "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 visitors 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.
    6. Java on the Web (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, on the client. That was always a bad idea, and Java's developers have proven themselves incapable of implementing it 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" affecting OS X. Merely loading a page with malicious Java content could be harmful. Fortunately, Java on the Web is mostly extinct. Only a few outmoded sites still use it. Try to hasten the process of extinction by avoiding those sites, if you have a choice. Forget about playing games or other non-essential uses of Java.
       
    Java is not included in OS X 10.7 and later. Discrete Java installers are distributed by Apple and by Oracle (the developer of Java.) Don't use either one unless you need it. Most people don't. 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.
       
    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. Never enable Java on a public web page that carries third-party advertising. Use it, when necessary, only on well-known, login-protected, secure websites without ads. In Safari 6 or later, you'll see a lock icon in the address bar with the abbreviation "https" when visiting a secure site.

    Follow the above guidelines, and you’ll be as safe from malware as you can practically be. The rest of this comment concerns what you should not do to protect yourself from malware.

    7. 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.
    8. 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.
        
    9. The greatest harm done by security 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.
      
    10. 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.

  • 4. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    MadMacs0 Level 4 Level 4 (3,735 points)

    > What is the best virus protection for a Mac?

     

    A fully up-to-date OS X 10.8.3.

  • 5. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    Electricidad Level 1 Level 1 (70 points)

    Install ClamXav from the Appstore.

    MadMacs0's questionable advice will not protect against windows viruses.

  • 6. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    MadMacs0 Level 4 Level 4 (3,735 points)

    Electricidad wrote:

     

    MadMacs0's questionable advice will not protect against windows viruses.

    I completely agree, but the OP's question was what is the best protection and I stick by my statement. If they needs more, then he should add more. If they require protection against windows malware for any reason, then they should follow the advice given by every other contributer here.

  • 7. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    Electricidad Level 1 Level 1 (70 points)

    Everyone requires protection against windows viruses to prevent being host to them and enabling their spread.

  • 8. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    b j t Level 4 Level 4 (3,670 points)

    Why would I need protection against Windows viruses on a mac ?

  • 9. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    BitterCreek Level 1 Level 1 (100 points)

    b j t wrote:

     

    Why would I need protection against Windows viruses on a mac ?

    Everyone requires protection against windows viruses to prevent being host to them and enabling their spread.

     

    You probably won't infect many people but those you do certainly won't appreciate it at all.

     

    <Edited by Host>

  • 10. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    Grant Bennet-Alder Level 8 Level 8 (49,280 points)

    Even in Windows, just having a Virus present (such as inside an email) does not mean the Virus has actively infected the computer.

     

    One also needs the infection mechanism (e.g., buffer overrun, malicious Java code execution, etc.) to be "armed" and ready to infect.

     

    It is laudable to protect Windows users from even the presence of Windows Viruses. But in my opinion, the concern for accidentally infecting them by accidentally emailing them a copy of virus code that is not "armed" and ready to infect is overblown.

  • 11. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    b j t Level 4 Level 4 (3,670 points)

    The reason I asked the question "Why would I need protection against Windows viruses on a mac ?"

    is because of the statement Electricidad made that said:

    Everyone requires protection against windows viruses to prevent being host to them and enabling their spread.

    Which this statement is confusing as a mac computer ( at the moment ) can't get viruses..

  • 12. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    thomas_r. Level 7 Level 7 (27,985 points)

    It is commonly believed among many regulars here that Electricidad and BitterCreek (among other aliases, some of which have been banned) are the same person. He is a troll. Don't waste time trying to reason with him.

  • 13. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    BitterCreek Level 1 Level 1 (100 points)

    b j t wrote:

    Which this statement is confusing as a mac computer ( at the moment ) can't get viruses..

    Yes thay can, and have.

  • 14. Re: What is the best virus protection for a Mac?
    Csound1 Level 8 Level 8 (35,455 points)

    You are wrong, again.

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