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An Apple a day can't keep malware away

ESET Cyber Security Pro helps keep Mac users safe online

PCR explores why Mac owners aren’t as safe as they think, and speaks to ESET about the importance of security.

Apple has long traded on the assumption that its devices are safer from malware than its PC counterparts. But even if that was true, safer does not equal safe.

ESET’s Mark James, UK technical manager, comments: “This is purely media driven and down to user perception; as PCs are the most used endpoint product it’s virtually all you hear about in the news and through social networking circles. There are infections on the Mac OS X platform but they are not so widely reported or don’t appear in such vast quantities.”

Still not convinced that Mac users might need protection? In September 2011, the Flashback Trojan was discovered. It targets a Java vulnerability on Mac OS X and was estimated to have infected 600,000 Mac computers. A new Java vulnerability appeared only this August.

Andreas Marx, CEO of AV-Test.org, told PCMag.com that Flashback was “a reminder that Apple computers are not a virus-free zone.” He commented that: “Mac malware has been there since the very beginning of the Apple era, just the number of malware samples is much lower when compared with Windows. With the increasing popularity of Macs for users, they are getting more relevant and attractive for malware writers as well.”

ESET’s James continues: “Another threat is Mac Defender (which is also known as Mac Protector, Mac Security, Mac Guard, and Mac Shield), which tricks the user into installing itself and masquerades as fake anti-malware programs. It displays a page saying you are infected and offers cleaning and removal for a fee; if paid they have successfully received some monies, but more importantly your credit card details, possibly leading to identity theft.”

It all leads back to the point that even if there are more risks on a PC, that doesn’t negate the fact there are risks on Macs too.

We must remember that the size of any given market is important to would-be cyber criminals, and that Apple is one of the most popular brands in the world – which leads consumers not only to iPhones, but also Macbooks, iMacs and Mac Minis. The more people who have them, the more malware creators see the sector as a good opportunity to make money or cause mayhem.

It’s led security firms like ESET to create products specifically for Mac users. James explains: “As people get to grips with the ease of iPads and iPhones some of them will almost certainly take a look at Macbooks or similar. Apple has had a steady growth vs PC sales (20+%) in the last few years and as more people that use the Mac OS X, more people will target it with malware.”

He explains some of the benefits of ESET’s latest Cyber Security products (Cyber Security and Cyber Security Pro). “It adds another layer of security. Uniquely designed for Mac, ESET Cyber Security is easy to install and comes with intuitive dashboard displays and obvious actions to address cross- platform and never-before-seen threats.

“Our intention is that ESET protects you around the clock without getting in the way. It’s been engineered to use low memory and minimal alerts, and ensures your Mac performs at its peak whether working or playing online. It’s very easy to use and once installed will sit quietly in the background and notify you if there is a problem.”

James sees the new product as playing an important role in protecting Mac users. Nevertheless, he concludes that consumers and business users have their own part to play too: “A Good antivirus product is a must but it should not be used as a ‘single barrier’, thinking you’re now safe if it is installed; common sense is still one of the best tools to protect your data and it is not used enough.”


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