Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
Weblog about cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore.
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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Fri 25 Mar 2005

How secure is your mac?

Category : mac and the internet

In response to Symantec's recent predictions of future threats to OS X, I asked the me@n list what they thought. The first response initially discounted the threat completely but it was partly a rabid, pavlovian response to Symantec; another said we're fine but it would be good to be cautious, but was also dismissive of Symantec; a third asked about spyware.

Symantec usually makes me@ners foam at the mouth, and a press release from them flippantly saying macs are threatened is bound to be dismissed. To date Symantec's Disk Doctor has rated only one supporter on the me@n list. Most claim it did more damage than good. It didn't help that their mac support withered nor when their Antivirus quarantine displaced pc users mail! Nor that they made statements like this:

"I think it's fair to say that Mac users today shouldn't believe they're impervious to attacks," David Cole, Symantec product management security response director, told TMO.

While Cole admitted there is no actual data to prove a connection, he said, "it's reasonable to assume that with in increase in market share and popularity comes an increased interest by the hacker attacker community to go after the Mac. No platform is absolutely free of vulnerabilities and no users at the end of the day are impervious because they use a particular product."

Well, some read it as an anti-Virus software company, anticipating significant sales of the mac mini, recognising many customers will be switchers from the virus-filled pc world, has begun to make self-serving statements to encourage sales of their antivirus-software. E.g. see this user's comment at Another report that emerged, that took a similarly view was funded by Microsoft, which is also enttering the Anti-Virus (AV) software market. Oh well.

Before the discussion on me@n got too boring technical with scatterings of FreeBSD, Darwin, kernels and the like, I managed to toss in some pointers for the less IT-savvy folk (like me) on the list:

MacWorld ran a feature, "Mac Security: Fact and Fiction - Find Out What the Real Dangers Are." By Mark Anbinder, Jeffery Battersby, Jeff Carlson, Glenn Fleishman and Kirk McElhearn. MacWorld, March 2005 (published online 18 Feb 2005).

I am a print subscriber and read this issue and forgot about it completel - it slyingon the office prrinter right now, I believe. That's testimony to the insignificant security threat, and consistent with the fact the feature wasn't splashed all over the cover.

Like most, MacWorld says it has been good news on the virus front with OS X, so far, and then adopt a cautionary stance: "...doesn't mean we can afford to let down our collective guard. If there is a virus attack, those of us who have good, up-to-date antivirus software installed will have the best odds of escaping unscathed."

If you work with a lot of Microsoft Office files and swap them with pc users, you could be unknowingly propagating macro viruses - by handing over bombshells you picked up elsewhere, to an unknowing pc user. You could sat it serves them right for using a pc without protection, especially SoBig and Mydoom (Novarg) or more generously explore antivurs software options.

In MacWorld's review, Intego's US$60 VirusBarrier X 10.1.1 tops out with a four mice rating.

While searching the subject, I found a Bangkok Post article reproduced on Mac News World which recommended the free, open source ClamAV. Helpfully, a Mark Allan wrote a donationware GUI called clamXav.

As for spyware, MacWorld's take was - "Breathe a long sigh of relief. Spyware - programs that record information, such as browsing habits or keystrokes, and send it to a remote server - runs rampant on Windows, but there are currently no real spyware programs that affect the Mac."

Ironically, laptop users are probably more vulnerable to someone physically accessing their files, so they go on to suggest eight ways to protect your data.

Posted at 3:12AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .