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Posted on January 28th, 2012 in Apple, Personal and Small Business Security

I’m often asked the question about whether or not Mac’s need anti-virus?

As one who professes information security, the obvious answer would be “Yes” or “Yes, what are you doing without anti-virus!?”
Now the nay-sayers and Mac purists may respond, “Mac’s don’t get viruses!” or “Steve Jobs would never design a computer that gets viruses.”

But the truth is all computers and even mobile devices are susceptible to viruses.

Are There Viruses for Macs?

MacDefender, DNSChanger, HelloRTS -all of these are Apple viruses that well-known anti-virus companies have signatures for. If there were no viruses, then there would be no anti-virus clients.

Most recently, the above mentioned MacDefender made the news around the world as a virus that unexpectedly showed up on several Mac computers. The virus was so prevalent that Apple, outside of the anti-virus vendors, released a patch to remove it from computers.

Now it is true that significantly and exponentially more Windows viruses exist. The Bad Guys or virus writers create viruses to spread to the most number of computers possible. As there are more Windows PC’s then Macs, it makes sense. However, it is undeniable that the footprint for Macs have grown over the last several years. In 2011 alone, millions of iPads were sold. Where the Bad Guys and virus writers see opportunity, is where they often target their time and resources next.

So What Do These Mac Viruses Do?
Mac viruses do the same things as Windows viruses.
The following is just a snapshot of some the actions viruses take:

    Kill running processes
    Download and delete files
    Steal passwords
    Intercept traffic
    Reboot computers
    Take images from the onboard camera

More serious viruses called “ransomeware” will lock you out of your computer or encrypt your files requiring you to pay the Bad Guys before they release your files.

Rule of Thumb
Whether Mac or PC, use antivirus on any computing device that supports it.

Resources:
Free Anti-Virus for Mac: Sophos @http://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/free-tools/sophos-antivirus-for-mac-home-edition.aspx
Commercial Anti-Virus: Intego @ http://www.intego.com