There was news earlier this week that Apple had released an article recommending that Mac users install anti-virus software. Many journalists made a big deal of this. Turns out the tech-support article in question was several years old, and had simply been updated, and looked recent. In response to the whole kerfuffle, Apple has since yanked the article, because…
We have still never seen a Mac virus “in the wild.”
Definition: virus = “a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.”
Viruses infect Windows computers, and they do so invisibly. But over the years, including just recently, a couple of anti-virus software companies recently reported a couple of “Trojan horses” exploits of the Mac.
Definition: Trojan horse = “a program designed to breach the security of a computer system while ostensibly performing some innocuous function.”
Trojans are somewhat different than viruses. Trojan horses require that you, the user, do something to accept and install the malicious app on your system. In one example from earlier this year, the OSX.RSPlug.A Trojan, a web site purportedly offering a movie — guess what kind of movie — says that the video cannot be displayed, and asks the user to download a “codec,” which is actually an app that changes your DNS servers to send you to phishing and spamming sites.
OSX.RSPlug.A may be a pest, but it ultimately does not really screw up your computer, and like other Trojan horses, it is removable. This one, for example, can be wiped through this admittedly annoying process or using a free tool now published by SecureMac.
But here’s the really important point: As with any system-level software on the Mac, one has to enter one’s administrative password to install this Trojan. Which is yet another reason Macs are more secure, and is also a lesson: If you don’t know where a piece of software comes from, don’t install it. Know your admin password, and know what you’re doing when you use it. Simple.
A wag of the finger went to the people at Intego, who publish VirusBarrier for the Mac, and who blew the worry about this exploit way out of the water, which created a media scare and gave Mac haters a change to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD).
Finally, if a virus scare ever becomes real, Mac users will be able to download and run the free ClamXAV. But doing is neither my recommendation nor, apparently, Apple’s.