As Apple’s Mac computers grow in popularity, so too will the frequency with which they are targeted in attacks. While the debate about whether or not Mac’s truly are inherently more secure than PC’s rages on, and probably will for some time, its inarguable that being extra secure is never a bad thing regardless of what system your using. With that being said, here are some of the best ways I’ve found to secure your Mac.
Best General Antivirus Apps
Let’s get something out of the way. There are a ton of Anti-virus applications for OS X. From the big guys like Norton to the open source solutions, there are plenty of choices. There are though, two antivirus tools that I use occasionally. These two are iAntiVirus and ClamXav.
These two applications are great for several reasons. First of all, they are updated regularly, and highly respected pieces of software. On top of that, they both offer free antivirus, which makes them invaluable when compared to offerings from companies like Norton.
The first app I want to talk about is iAntiVirus. I believe this is the antivirus app that will appear to most users. It’s thorough, and super simple to use. The UI is nice, it has a clean and easy install, and considering what is, at least today, a pretty light workload for any Mac antivirus app, its probably more than enough. The main screen will look like this:
As you can see, it’s pretty much dead simple. You can scan your entire Mac, and you can have real time protection on or off. That’s all there is to it, because like most Mac products, they just want it to work!
The other antivirus app some may be interested in is called ClamXav. ClamXav is a little more complicated, but gives you more configuration options than iAntiVirus. What I like most about it though is that it adds an option to your contextual menu, so you can right-click a file or folder and scan just those objects for a virus.
In ClamXav’s main screen you can choose what folders you want scanned, start and stop scans, and update virus definitions. You probably want to include, at the very least, your home folder, to ensure you’ll get most of the files you download and install under your user name. While this seems pretty simple, where ClamXav can be difficult is the download and install page. You need to hunt around a little on their downloads page, as it changes with every update, and there is a different version for each version of OS X, as well as for Intel vs. PPC processors.
The downloads page is here for most versions of Mac OS, but if you’re on Snow Leopard you’ll have to click through to the beta version.
Best Anti-Spamware App
Of course we all know that in this day and age, traditional viruses are only half the battle… Maybe even less. Spyware is a huge problem in today’s computers, and while antivirus software catches some of it, its always best to have separate software designed specifically for detecting spyware. This is where our last app of note, Little Snitch, comes in.
You can get a copy Little Snitch here. Little Snitch does exactly what it’s name implies… Snitches! Little Snitch monitors your network traffic, and once you set your normal apps up with rules and allowances, any app outside that list will bring up an alert if it tries to transmit data over your network. This works well because all spyware apps communicate with central servers, and to do that, they would have to get through Little Snitch.
Little Snitch gives you myriad options to choose from in it’s Preferences dialog, from things as simple as where to show the app and when to have it running, to as complex as setting up specific rules for specific things certain apps may want to do over the network. It does a great job automatically, but will also really allow you to fine tune your connection’s allowances if you want to.
Little Snitch also has a great activity window, pictured below, that gives you a real time snapshot of what traffic is heading over your network.
After many years as a heavy Mac user, I’ve never gotten a virus. A good portion of the reason for that is smart computing habits, and there is really no substitutes for those (Maybe I’ll give you guys some guidance on that in a future post). These apps though, even lacking those habits that you should try to have on the internet, can help keep you protected, and your investment, files, and work safe and sound. As always, if you’ve got an app you like better, or have any other comments or questions, sound off in the comments!