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The Security Tango

Let's Dance! The Macarena

A step-by-step guide to dancing The Security Tango - for Macintosh

Many Macintosh people believe that there is no malware that can affect their systems. That used to be true, but hasn't been true for a long time now. And that false sense of security can be deadly on the Internet. There is no operating system that's safe on the Internet any longer.

Every year, at the CanSecWest security conference, there is a contest called Pwn2Own, pwn being hacker slang for gaining control of a computer. Every year, the Macintosh falls in this competition, often first, usually within minutes. In 2009, it took about 10 seconds.

So let's protect that Mac, shall we?

Step One: Make Sure You're Up to Date

You need to make sure that your system is fully patched. Many of the patches that Apple puts out are security patches. For example, last year, Apple put out 65 major patches; I didn't even bother to count the minor patches.

  • From the Apple menu, choose Software Update
  • Mac OS X 10.3 only: Click the Check Now button
  • In the Software Update window, select the items you want to install, then click Install - usually, you should install all available updates.
  • Enter an administrator account name and password
  • After installation is complete, restart the computer if a restart is required
  • Lather, rinse, repeat until there are no more updates

Step Two: Install the Software

Please note, that all of this software is for the Intel-based OS X - if you somehow still have a PPC-based Mac, please check the specs on the software very carefully before trying to install anything!

One of the very good anti-virus programs for the Mac is ClamXav. It's only $30. Sophos Antivirus for Home is free. You have to register, but it's free. Another good program is Mac Internet Security. It's only $40. For anti-spyware, MacScan is both full-featured, and only $50.

And, of course, you should run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac. It's free, and does a really good job.

Most of these programs can be set up to run automatically. If you leave your Mac on overnight, you have have them run late at night, so that you never even notice it. If you don't, you can set them up to run at a time when you're machine is usually on. You may notice a bit of slowdown; if you run on battery, you'll notice a few minutes less battery life. That's about all the impact you'll notice, if your Mac is fast enough.

Step Three: Oh, wait... there is no step three...

Yep, you're done. For now. As the Mac gets more popular, it becomes more of a target for the bad guys. Stay tuned!

Special thanks must be given to Steve Rea, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the Macintosh is, frankly, a bit scary.

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