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We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges!

“We don’t need no stinking anti-virus/spyware/malware software!”

The original quote “We don’t need no stinking badges” was from the 1948 film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” with Humphrey Bogart, in which the bandit leader arrogantly justifies their need not to have said badges. But I think it works in our context as well.

Mac users have forever scoffed at the idea of installing anti-virus software on their Macs. After all, in all the years that Mac OS X has been out on the wild (ten years and counting) there has not been one credible Mac virus that caused any sort of damage. Nor any malware or spyware. In fact, if the online data reporting is to believed, the vast majority of Mac users do not run any protection software at all. And we brag on that fact to our PC using friends.

Should we?

Most security software makers that support the Mac tell us that it’s only a matter of time before Mac users start seeing the same problems with malware and spyware as do PC users. Mac pundits like to point out that these security experts are simply using scare tactics to sell unneeded software to gullible Mac users.

Could the truth lay somewhere in the middle?

Consider the faux-story of Johnny Miller. Johnny wanted to work from home, so he copied his Microsoft Word and Excel work files from his office PC to a thumb drive, and transferred those files to his iMac. There, we worked for hours, laboring at home to get his work done. Proudly copying those same files back to the thumb drive, Johnny returned to work on a Monday, loaded the files back on his PC, and was fired by lunch after infecting the entire office with a virus that had been dormant on his iMac, but ran rampant over the corporate network once it found itself on the work Windows PC.

Do you think Johnny Miller would have been better served to pick up a copy of Intego VirusBarrier?

And lest you think the above scenario could not happen, the official term of Mac users unknowingly passing on PC viruses is called “Downstream”. In this case, the Word Macro virus would have been detected and dealt with on the Mac weeks before Johnny worked from home. But, alas, that was not the case and Johnny was fired.

So while I personally do not know of any “in the wild” Macintosh specific virus, malware, or spyware that you need concern yourself about, I do think that if you want to be a responsible online computer user, you have to take into consideration those PC users who you could infect through pure neglect or ignorance on your part. If you trade in files with PC users, personal or business related, you should have some way of making sure you don’t inadvertently infect their computer.

Nothing says “Do business with me!” as a graphic designer than infecting your prospective clients with spyware.

Protect the Weak

We would like to think that all Window PC users are running anti-virus software to protect both themselves and others who are susceptible to nasty software viruses, malware, and spyware. The truth, according to polls I have read, is that while many Window users do in fact have anti-virus software on their machines, many do not keep the software as up-to-date as they should. This is a big problem, as new malware and spyware is introduced on a daily basis, and out of date protection software can be ill-equipped to handle it.

This is why, for those Mac users who really need good protection not as much for themselves, but for the PC users in their lives, Intego VirusBarrier is such a good solution. Not only can you manually check when the software updates with the latest information, you can also let it auto-update itself on whatever schedule you prefer.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The other problem Window PC users have with running protection software is how intrusive the software can be. The “Crying Wolf” syndrome is when the protection software is constantly in the users face, getting in between the user and the task they are trying to accomplish, by asking unnecessary question all the time. When a user is constantly bombarded with the same sorts of inquiries from protection software, users will usually (a) ignore the program after a while, or (b) turn the software off.

With Intego VirusBarrier you will barely know the program is even there, let alone running in the background. The only time you will see any dialog from VirusBarrier is when it actually detects a nasty piece of software, which is when  you want to know what’s going on.

Every IT department I know of forces every PC in their network to be protected. This can mean, if you are a Mac user in a corporate environment, that you too must run protection software. Not to protect yourself, but to protect the Window PCs out there you are interacting with on a daily basis.

And least you forget, if you are running Windows emulation or virtualization software, you need to protect yourself as well.

Think of yourself as doing a good deed. If you cannot convince your friends or coworkers to make the switch to the Mac, then think of Mac Anti-Virus software as protection for Windows PC users in your life. We don’t knowingly give other people our colds when we are sick, why would we not do the same with our computers?

Mac AntiVirus Software: Protect the Windows PCs and Windows PC users in your Life

Rocket Yard Contributor
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  • I’d say in terms of on a PC it really is determined by your level of internet usage.

    I always see a direct correlation between my browsing time and the # of viruses I get on my PC, anti-virus software or no.

    With that said, I might have to break down and get a mac after reading this article.

  • I am a Windows and Mac user. I primarily use Windows but do use and have managed tons of Macs in IT departments. I hold no grudge over OS X. It’s pretty.

    Anyways, on my several Windows PCs, I never run any virus/firewall/spyware/adware/malware protection. It’s a waste of system processing, disk space, memory, and money. All it takes is a little knowledge of what to click and what not to click. I never get any infections.

    9/10, when I am asked to fix PCs with such problems, they have Limewire or some other P2P application installed. That is probably the surefire way to get things. Most e-mail clients and webmail hosts have built in virus protection.

  • Many of you seem to think that all companies have an IT Department. Many, if not most, smaller companies do not. And it is the smaller companies, 5-10 employees, who hire independent graphic designers and the like in the above scenario.

    A MS Word macro virus was simply an example. There are many more spyware and malware problems that are just as able to harm a Windows PC.

    How would a Mac user get them? Email is the most common. Simply forwarding an email you received can infect the recipient.

    Many people have told me “Why should I care what happens to a PC user? It’s their problem, not mine. That’s why I have a Mac, so I don’t have to worry about these problems.”

    Fair enough. But if that’s the case, then I ask that you use the same argument in all aspects of your life. “I don’t have kids, what do I care if the schools are running out of money?”
    “I don’t drive, what do I care if the streets are full of potholes?”

    We all live in the online community, and all must take some responsibility of our own actions. If you actions are to spread a spyware email to another, then that is your responsibility.



  • In 1998, while working at a large advertising agency in NYC, we were in the same situation. We were running System 7.5 and 7.6 across our Mac workstations and we hadn’t seen a new virus in years. In fact, most of the old viruses weren’t even compatible with our operating systems.

    Then the Autostart98 virus came out. The original variants were nothing more than annoying. They would slow the computer down significantly every 6 minutes while scanning the computer for files to destroy and other disks to infect. Fortunately the worm was looking for a very specific, highly proprietary file type – one that we didn’t use.

    So we were safe and ignored the warning. A few weeks later, however, a new variant came out that destroyed image files. We were an ad agency; this was a problem. And we had already found, isolated, and removed our first outbreak. We had to act fast.

    We had to:
    – research all available solutions and testing one that met our needs
    – request approval for the purchase
    – purchase the solution
    – roll the solution out to 750+ Macs

    The effort with herculean.

    Today, we’ve already had our warning shot, with a small number of trojans in the wild already. This doesn’t mean that we should all run screaming for the nearest AV solution. But it does mean we should take it for what it is: a harbinger.

    It is important to acknowledge this unique time in the history of Mac OS X for what it is:
    – We have a largely open-source operating system (whose bugs are publicly documented, in detail)
    – With a large number of security-related bugs (like any other OS)
    – Which Apple patches very slowly
    – And whose market share and mind share are growing rapidly
    – Virus writers and purveyors are no longer malicious: they are in business
    – Mac users are poorly trained on virus threats, surfing the web with abandon

    Moral: if you wait until you absolutely need an AV solution, you are foolish. Be prepared. Even if you don’t want to install the solution now, as an IT admin you MUST remain up to date on the latest AV packages. This means USING them, daily, not just reading about them on your favorite Mac “news” or rumors site.

  • I bought Intego’s file encryption product and it was straight out of When Designers Attack! It was un-Maclike with bizarre animations, and stopped working entirely after awhile. Intego did not respond to my request for support. I want usable apps that observe Mac interface conventions. Now I use solutions from small developers and open source. I am reluctant to add any more Intego software to my happy Mac.

  • A virus lie dormant in an iMac….hahahahaha

    The IT department should get fired for not keeping the PC protection standard up to date and Johnny should be promoted for bringing up the point that the IT department is sleeping.

    Btw get to know more about the Mac OS before firing off FUD.

  • My university provides licenses for Windows and OSX virus software. I used it with on-access scanning for a few weeks but then got tired of unusual slow-downs when browsing the file system in software other than Finder. I do have the antivirus in my virtualized instance of Windows. That said, in all the years I’ve been using computers, my systems have never been infected. Caught them trying to, yes. So it may happen… on Windows. I have yet to find a virus floating around on OSX. I’m more concerned about me doing something silly, like forgetting to save an important document and something catastrophic happening :-)

  • Moreover, Intego’s pricing structure is particularly offensive, requiring an annual “tax” for virus definitions, over and above fees for “upgrades”. Imagine every other software company’s devising a similar mechanism . . . .

  • Nice ad masquerading as an article. Pure FUD but it might have sold a couple of copies of Virus Barrier. It made me sure to never buy anything from you ever again though. And I’ll spread the word.

  • I use ClamXAV, its free – donationware and it works for me. I do try to protect hapless Windows platform companies and individuals. Why should I buy protection for my Window friends when it is available for almost nothing.

  • This blog as a sales tool=Fail
    Start with facts and extrapolate from there.
    Technical people can see BS from a mile away.

    • Hold on folks. Before we crucify Tim…he may have had an experience we all haven’t. To be honest, when some of us here heard the topic for this blog post, we said what’s the point…no viruses on OSX. Very similarly to how many of you replied.
      What we try to do is provide a forum for all sorts of topics…even those that may strike a nerve.

      Yes…there was some FUD in this…but while there are some very direct (ahem ;-) definitions, I tend to lean towards Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt

      As such, when I discussed the idea with Tim and he gave me his “downstream” example…Uncertainty entered the picture. For I was not aware of such and thus thought, “hmm…he may have a take on this that others here haven’t considered or experienced.”

      Now, I’m not shilling for Tim here. I’m just saying that this is a forum for all sorts of ideas, topics, thoughts, and unless profanity enters the realm, all sorts of comments too. As this shows, we keep things very transparent even with some “ouch” type comments.

      Hoping you all continue to visit, express your thoughts and knowledge, and grow a community here. I’m surprised you didn’t nail me for my praise for the iPad name… ;-)

  • There’s also the issue that you INTRODUCE issues with this packages.

    Remember the vulnerability with Symantec’s antivirus package a few years back?

    Also in the workplace we saw that user who installed Symantec’s software were seeing their MacBook Pro’s run slower than PowerBooks. A very big resource hog for no benefit.

    Most clueless companies require Symantec.

  • Way Off Base. The most common variant of the Word for Windows Macro Virus is a type from 1997. The thought that Mac users have to run anti-virus software to protect windows users who will not protect themselves, and worse yet, that Mac users should bear the burden and responsibility of cleaning up a Microsoft problem that they have been unable to contain for 13 years is ridiculous.

  • It’s amazing how a lot of companies that are dual platform require this type of software for Macs. Whether or not they actually work is questionable, but it’s more of a security blanket, especially if you want to be compliant. You could just as easily sold them a bobble-head and told them it wards of viruses and spyware on the Mac as well.

  • So now we’ve moved from the ineffective ‘protect yourself before the coming plague devastates you’ to the pathetic ‘protect others from yourself’?

    Johnny miller was fired wrongly. The IT department in that company should have been fired because they didn’t do their diligence and keep the anti-virus software on their PCs up-to-date.

    But, of course, since you’re selling the anti-virus software, you would pimp it this way.

  • FUD.

    Johnny Miller wouldn’t be the guy fired for bringing a virus into work. The IT guy that didn’t properly protect their PCs will probably get a strong talking to, and possibly fired. It wasn’t Johnny’s fault that it spread throughout the network. There is a philosophy that, when properly done, should have prevented this in the first place… “No user’s action can break down the network.”

    However, depending on the policies of Johnny’s company, he may be terminated for taking work off of company property (his work computer) and placing it on personal property.

    The example you gave is impossible in today’s Mac. My Mac cannot take a Windows virus from one file and transfer it to another. Nor can it infect the Mac Word template, so as to infect all documents Word opens. So either I received an infected file from someone else, and brought it to work, or my infected file would not have spread to the Office. Again, strict policies and AV on the Windows machine, where it is necessary, will remedy this problem. Especially since it is the same as a client loading a thumb drive and sticking it into your work PC.

    Finally, the claim that “you’ll barely know the program is there” is misleading. I don’t care if the app shows its face. I do care that it is consuming processor cycles and memory for a task that has not been proven to be useful for ten years now. Those resources _are_ being used, and could be better utilized elsewhere.

    My PC users have had to suffer from AV software, because it is a threat. I don’t bother with the Macs, because chance of propagation is rare. I agree that your virtualized Windows install needs AV protection, just as much as a standard PC.

    Of course when Word Macros come back, that changes the equation. I’ve dealt with Word Macro virus outbreaks in the 90s. But that’s not now. And we’ll test how Office 2010 deals with macro viruses before deploying AV software.