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Topic: Macs and Malware: The Straight Dope (Read 7427 times) Print
pwrguru

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The world is changing as noted by this article........
" Earlier this week, Washington Post blogger Brian Krebs stunned the computing world with the revelation that Apple had quietly been recommending anti-virus software for users of Mac OS X. This news flew in the face of popular wisdom (and Apple advertising), which holds that only Windows users need fear malware and other online attacks. But the shock didn't last long. Apple quickly went into spin-control mode, claiming that the online Knowledge Base article in question was out of date and that Macs were indeed perfectly safe out of the box.

Apple enthusiasts breathed a sigh of relief, while detractors grumbled various opinions, the gist of which amounted to "pride goeth before a fall." So who's right? Is Mac OS X the impenetrable fortress that Apple makes it out to be, or is it really a lurking malware death trap?

First things first: Sit down. Take a deep breath. Pour another cup of coffee. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

The oft-repeated mantra that Mac OS X is safer from malware attacks than Windows is actually true. To gain control of your system, viruses and Trojan horse programs typically need to hijack low-level OS functions. Before Vista, this was pretty easy to do on Windows. But Unix-like systems -- including Mac OS X and Linux -- make it hard for malware to muck about with their internals, because software does not run with administrative privilege by default. It's as if there's a firewall in place between your applications and the important parts of the system.

Popular wisdom also says that Macs are not good targets for viruses because Apple's market share is so low. This is also true. Like real-world viruses, computer viruses can't spread very well when they don't encounter other computers to infect. Thus, more viruses are written for Windows -- which has the most market share -- than for Mac OS X.

But that's not to say Mac users should be complacent. It's important to understand that the nature of online attacks has changed. In the old days, malware was often little more than a form of online vandalism. The goal was to gain control of your computer for some malicious or annoying purpose. But modern cyber-attacks are growing ever more sophisticated, and they are launched not by vindictive teens but by international criminal organizations. Today the real target isn't your PC; it's your money.

Mac users can fall victim to online fraud just like Windows users can. Phishing attacks, whether they are conducted through e-mail or Web pages, often require no special software. This kind of attack relies on tricking users into compromising their own security, so Mac OS X's internal protections are no defense. Unaware users can easily give away their passwords, credit card numbers, or even bank account information.

Still other attacks bypass the OS completely. Instead, they exploit flaws in Web browsers or in browser plug-ins -- such as Flash or Adobe Reader -- to divert form input from Web site to another. Because these plug-ins run cross-platform code, Macs are just as vulnerable as PCs. And again, financial information is the usual target.

Anti-malware software for Macs and PCs can help to defend against these threats. The most important thing to understand, however, that the tools of the modern cyber-criminal are deception and manipulation. Smashing straight through your computer's defenses like a battering ram is too difficult. Instead, today's attackers will try to trick you. If you rely on anti-malware software to do all the work for you, you're still not secure.

Believe it or not, I own Windows PCs that don't run any kind of resident anti-malware software; but when I do run a periodic virus scan, they come up free and clear. The key lies in knowing not to run software from unknown sources, never to give away passwords to sites you don't recognize, and all the other tenets of safe online computing. A well-informed, security-aware user is always the best defense -- and that goes for Macs and PCs alike."

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Dark Angel

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Anti-malware software for Macs and PCs can help to defend against these threats. The most important thing to understand, however, that the tools of the modern cyber-criminal are deception and manipulation. Smashing straight through your computer's defenses like a battering ram is too difficult. Instead, today's attackers will try to trick you. If you rely on anti-malware software to do all the work for you, you're still not secure.

Believe it or not, I own Windows PCs that don't run any kind of resident anti-malware software; but when I do run a periodic virus scan, they come up free and clear. The key lies in knowing not to run software from unknown sources, never to give away passwords to sites you don't recognize, and all the other tenets of safe online computing. A well-informed, security-aware user is always the best defense -- and that goes for Macs and PCs alike."

He's neglected one little phase that's become very scary these days.  "Drive-by install".  Even if you do everything right, according to this author, just visiting some web pages ... even if you don't click on ANYTHING there ... can be enough to leave you compromised in the worst possible way.  In fact it's possible to get any one of several infections by doing nothing more than having the computer turned on and connected to the internet with an un-firewalled connection.  No clicking or browsing of any kind is required.  That author's "key" was well and good ... about ten years ago.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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I am starting to see a lot of my friends computers infected over the past two weeks...And these are ones with anti-virus installed.... Thinking
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Dark Angel

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A lot of people seem to think that if they have an anti-virus product installed that they are immune.  Even fully updated, they miss 10% (or worse) of known viruses and who knows how many UNknown.  Add that to the drive-by installs, root-kits etc and you start to wonder if it's worth the trouble to run AV at all. It is, but you start to wonder.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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And it is only going to get worse...............Another major problem I see on some of the computers I work on is multiple anti-virus programs running............That is almost as bad as having none at all..............
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Dark Angel

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I'd suggest it's worse.  As I understand it, they interfere with each other.  At worst they soak up a ton of CPU cycles doing nothing while preventing each other from scanning anything properly, at best they fight over scanning the same files at the same time and cause everything to slow down for no benefit.  Either way they should pick one and be done with it.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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Have no fear, when I get done working on them they only have one........... rofl
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TLD

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Why doesn't someone just make a virus killing virus to kill the viruses instead of users having to use anti virus programs?
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Dark Angel

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It's been considered, as has telling the various botnets to uninstall themselves when researchers have gotten lucky and nabbed control for a time.  Trouble is it 1)would be considered an offence under the various wire fraud/computer security laws and 2) there's very real potential that it will render the machines inoperable without giving the owners the chance to back up their data which will lead to enormous losses worldwide in one fell swoop.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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Ghost Plane

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And that's different from what's currently happening how? Huh?
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pwrguru

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Never start a war you don't plan on winning...............With those rules bots will be around for a long time...........
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Dark Angel

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And that's different from what's currently happening how? Huh?

Even the huge numbers of machines that fall over and fail due to malware currently could be considered nominal compared to what would happen if someone flicked that kill-switch.  We're talking literally MILLIONS of infected, but otherwise functional machines suddenly dropping their bundle over a few hours at most.  Many of them part of government and large corporate networks.  That's on top of all the ones that were failing already.  Not a pretty picture.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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But it would be fun to watch........ Doh  rofl
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Ghost Plane

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Thought that was what China was trying to accomplish anyway Thinking
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pwrguru

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No, they just like to hack our computers......... rofl
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Dark Angel

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The Chinese are more about stealing information.  Industrial espionage, that kind of thing.  When they got into a utilities system last year (I think) I suspect the cracker involved was supposed to plant his access backdoor and get out unnoticed.  Instead they played "waht do thi burron do?" and got themselves found out.
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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Press the big red button...... Doh
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rwillis

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I am starting to see a lot of my friends computers infected over the past two weeks...And these are ones with anti-virus installed.... Thinking
I'm seeing the same thing here. on the old lappy ATM, as the new one got a nasty last night. Ugly little malware dropper, internal IDA Pro dis-assemble has a date of 11122008 - looks E. European based to me. Polymorphic, and Clones like crazy - also attempts to use very odd port ranges to phone home.
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pwrguru

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I guess that is there way of sending us presents for Christmas.......... Doh
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fingerle

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One of the reasons my firewall is set to ask when something new wants net access.
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pwrguru

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I have Spybot loaded for that............. Thumbs Up
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rwillis

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One of the reasons my firewall is set to ask when something new wants net access.

Thats how I found it............ took about 5 hours to kill it.
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fingerle

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 Doh
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rwillis

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It was fun in a warped kinda way ................. Grin
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fingerle

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 lol  Doh
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pwrguru

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It was fun in a warped kinda way ................. Grin
Shocked  Doh
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rwillis

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Well it was - pulling it apart, and seeing what made it tick, modifying it and sending it back............ Heart
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pwrguru

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You really need a woman in your life................. rofl  rofl
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Ghost Plane

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 Angel
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john galbraith

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He meant a real, tangible woman.  Rick can't take a computer monitor to bed.  Too lumpy under the covers. Hoghappy
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Dark Angel

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and you do NOT want to put anything delicate near the "preacher's cap"  Doh
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"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." -Terry Pratchett
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pwrguru

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 Donkey Kong TMI..............
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