Do you need anti-virus software?

This is the second of a four part series on Mac Security

I find it amusing that we learn about supposed Macintosh security problems from companies like Kapersky, Norton, Sophos and Intego. These are the companies (along with a few others) who sell antivirus software for the Mac.

In several cases, these same software companies have released proof-of-concept malware on the Internet to demonstrate how we “need” their products.

The dirty little secret about their software is that it cannot automatically protect you from the newest malware. These companies have to find the virus or exploit and then they have to write the code to block the problem. So, while their software can protect you from older malware, it does not protect you from today or tomorrow’s problem.

They must also rely on you to keep their software up-to-date and they have to depend on you not to exit a virus scan. If you’ve used antivirus software, you know that the software will always need to be updated when you are in a hurry and cannot wait around for it to download the newest update, install it, restart your computer, then run the virus scan. All too often users will circumvent this lengthy process because they are in a hurry.

Ask me how I know, since I don’t run Mac antivirus software. I have several applications that I must run in Windows, so I use Parallels to run them. I seem to encounter these issues every time I boot into Windows--and I routinely find myself disabling the antivirus software. I know I am un-protected when I do it, but then I never access the web, read email, or download files when I am using Windows on my Mac. Can I guarantee I won’t do the same things if I am relying on Mac antivirus software? I know I would occasionally slip!

Apple has built security software into Mac OS X 10.8 MountainLion. Because I keep my computer up-to-date, Apple has a mechanism to download and install new antivirus definitions in the background, at the deepest level, to keep my Mac protected. They don’t have to rely on the Internet to warn then of exploits. The best method of protection is obscurity. Apple protects my computer without any publicity. They do not rely on me to learn about a problem and then hunt for a solution. Their silent service is the kind of protection I like!

Bob adds: I haven't used anti-virus software since OS X was introduced more than ten years ago and have not been infected with malware or viruses. I don't like running anti-virus software. It always seems to intrude at just the wrong time, and it often intrudes for no good reason. And even the best ones (don't ask; I don't use any of 'em) use some of my precious RAM and processor power. So far I've had no regrets (and no viruses or malwares), but I reserve the right to change my tune someday. But unless or until something really bad gets loose in the wild, I'm perfectly happy with the protections afforded by OS X.

If you have installed anti-virus software that is hopelessly out-of-date, we can help you remove it. If you still want to run anti-virus, we can help guide you to the best product for your needs and get it installed properly. If you encounter something unexpected or strange and you need some help we are available. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to urgentrequest@boblevitus.com.

--Pat--and Bob
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