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8/26/2009
09:21 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Snow Leopard To Have Malware Protection?

Sources with advance copies of Snow Leopard have discovered a built-in anti-malware feature. If Apple's taking threats to OS X seriously, maybe it's time for Mac-based businesses to do the same.

Sources with advance copies of Snow Leopard have discovered a built-in anti-malware feature. If Apple's taking threats to OS X seriously, maybe it's time for Mac-based businesses to do the same.One of the first sites to report the Snow Leopard feature was the Mac Security Blog, hosted by Intego Software. Intego specializes in Mac security software -- among other offerings, VirusBarrier. The Security blogger somehow got his hands on a screen shot showing a warning message about a file downloaded by Safari. The message reads, "'Install.pkg' will damage your computer. You should move it to the Trash."

A report in The Register added more details. Apparently the feature (so far) only detects two specific trojans, and only if they were downloaded from the Internet by specific programs. Not all of the programs are Apple's, though -- reportedly, the feature also works with Entourage, Firefox, and Thunderbird -- suggesting that there are "hooks" into the feature that could enable other developers to make it work with their programs, too.

This is still nowhere near the level of protection that full-fledged antimalware products provide. Fortunately -- and I'm sure that Mac security vendors will disagree with me here -- Macs still don't seem to need that level of protection, at least in all-Mac environments. But in mixed environments, as in most businesses, Macs can serve as "carriers" of some malware, even if they can't be infected themselves. And Macs that are set up to run Windows as well need the same kind of malware protection that pure Windows machines do.

The real question, for me, is what is Apple trying to tell us by building antimalware protection into Snow Leopard? Is the company, despite its new ads aimed at people who want a computer "without thousands of viruses," acknowledging that the threat to Macs is real and growing? Is this a case of "watch what we do, not what we say"? Or is the goal something more like what they did with Time Machine: coming up with a way of making it dead simple to follow best practices? Perhaps those "hooks" could be extended to enable antimalware software itself to become part of the system-level operation.

However this is going to play out, let it serve as a prompt to reevaluate your business's security measures. Apple may be telling us it's time to jump on the antimalware bandwagon. Start with one of the free options: ClamXav, a Mac front end to the open source ClamAV virus scanner, or iAntiVirus from PC Tools, which has a free edition suitable for home and home office use. (The business edition costs $29.95 and includes round-the-clock and phone support.)

There are other choices, such as the Intego product mentioned above ($70 for one seat, $200 for ten); Norton AntiVirus ($50); and McAfee VirusScan (three seats minimum, for $110). Reviewers are generally satisfied with all three, with VirusBarrier getting consistently high ratings. But for now, one of the free products will probably be enough for most small business owners.

Don't Miss: Apple's Snow Leopard Brings Compatibility, Security Concerns

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