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BLOG: You are the biggest security risk to your Mac

Ben Camm-Jones | April 11, 2012
If you want to keep your Mac and all of your personal data stored on it protected then you'll need to make sure you use anti-virus software - and your noggin.

The debate over whether you, as a Mac user, need to have anti-virus and other security software installed on your computer is all but finished. You do, because cybercriminals are actively targeting the OS X platform.

But a poll run late last week on the Beta News website found that 75 percent of Mac users questioned didn't run any anti-malware protection, whereas around 90 percent of Windows users did.

Given that the Flashback Trojan that Macworld reported extensively on last week has managed to infect some 600,000 Macs - even some within Cupertino, according to reports - there is no more excuse for having your head in the sand.

Earlier last week, I received a tweet from a Mac user saying that neither he nor anyone he knew had ever encountered malware on a Mac. But is this necessarily indicative of low infection rates for Mac? Or could it be that the infection or infections have gone completely undetected? After all, cybercriminals want to not only recruit your Mac for their botnet, but use it to recruit others as well. To this end, a computer of any kind that has been turned into a bot may not display any obvious signs of infection, but right under your nose it is sending out malware to other computers across the globe without your knowledge.

Any illusions you might be under about OS X being inherently safer than other platforms - Windows, say - should be consigned to the bin marked 'BS' as well. It is simply that OS X isn't targeted as often as Windows, because it has a much smaller share of the market. But in their never-ending quest to pick the lowest-hanging fruit, cybercriminals are now well aware of the fact that the number of Macs being sold is grwoing at a much higher rate than the number of Windows-based PCs. They are also tuned into to general lack of Mac users who protect themselves with anti-virus software.

The Flashback Trojan is a good example of how Mac users are now very much targets of cybercriminal gangs - no longer are these people a ragtag bunch of hackers simply looking to make a name for themselves but well-organised, profit-motivated gangsters - as was the MacDefender (and numerous variants) scareware campaign from last year. Don't be fooled into thinking that Apple necessarily has your back either - it seriously dropped the ball when it came to the Flashback threat, not issuing an update for Java for weeks after Oracle had made it clear that a vulnerability existed and had fixed the threat for Windows.

This is why you have a responsibility to not just yourself but to others - the rest of the world, in fact - to use anti-virus software. Given that at least two security companies offer free anti-virus protection for Mac, there's also no excuse for not having security software installed. It would be nothing short of irresponsible to fail to protect your data and your Mac, but it would also be neglectful to think that installing an anti-virus program will give you immunity.

 

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