For a long time, the conventional wisdom said that anyone concerned about Internet security bought a Mac. While it’s true that the average Mac user does next to nothing to protect themselves from viruses while surfing the Web, it’s still debatable how much this of this freewheeling attitude is owed to Apple’s security and how much is due to its relative lack of popularity. Microsoft is still the undisputed king of the masses (insofar as the desktop computer is concerned, in any case) and, as such, is the target of much more malware than its highest profile competitor. But that doesn’t mean things will always stay that way. Now does it mean that a Mac user can afford to be cavalier about their online security.
Even Apple themselves admit that their operating system has its own vulnerabilities. While many of their users have never had to deal with the unpleasantness that comes along with an infected computer, the malware is out there. OS X does a wonderful job of providing enhanced security, but that doesn’t mean it is free from leaks. Don’t assume, either, that you’re entirely safe from attack if you practice safe browsing habits. There are several prominent malware programs out there (MacDefender, for one) that disguise themselves as antivirus software, tricking users into keeping it around even while it’s busy downloading personal information. If you own a Mac, you’re in a much stronger security position than if you owned a Windows machine, but you can still do more. Here are some of the best Internet security tools for Mac owners.
At a cost of around $30, Little Snitch doesn’t exactly provide antivirus protection as such. Rather, it acts as a sort of firewall application, requiring the user’s permission on any apps that try to communicate with the operating system. It may get a little annoying dealing with a pop up box every time you want to use an app, but this is an irritation worth enduring if you want to keep your computer safe.
If you don’t care to spend money on your antivirus solution, Sophos provides one of the best pieces of software on the market for Mac users. This free antivirus program is easy to use and can even scan drives networked to your computer. It runs constantly in the background as you browse, looking not only for malware logged in its extensive database, but also for programs that exhibit suspicious traits. Best of all, the program is lightweight and doesn’t hog all of your resources.
Another free antivirus solution for OS X, ClamXav has a tendency to scare away beginners with its daunting interface. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it myself when I first downloaded the program. It doesn’t take long, however, to realize that ClamXav is much simpler than it looks. It offers much more customization than your average antivirus program and is virtually undetectable when it comes to system resource use.
Your Mac, Your Choice
Is surfing the web without an antivirus program a suicide mission when using a Mac? Not really. Many users, both advanced and beginner, have managed to go years without infecting their Apple computers. It’s certainly not in the same league as using a Windows machine without protection. That said, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a history of secure browsing makes you invulnerable to attack. You aren’t. With a good antivirus program, you can increase your security tenfold for very little (or no) investment.