Saturday, January 29, 2005
Due to a recent comment stating that there are zero Mac OS X viruses, I decided to speak my mind on this matter. For clarification, I am defining all viruses, worms, etc. as “viruses” for the purposes of keeping this entry simple.
First of all, many of the viruses that have been out for Linux for some time can infect Mac OS X unless proper precautions are taken. Second, a quick Google search produces many articles on viruses that target Mac OS X directly—not all of which are “proof-of-concept” viruses.
The real issue here is prevention. It doesn’t really matter how many viruses are out there for your OS of choice. If you get infected, you could be toast. Smart people take appropriate steps to ensure minimal impact from viruses. Here are a few of my suggestions.
1) Backup, backup, backup. Did I make myself clear? No? BACKUP!!! This is the most important aspect of security and the most overlooked. No matter what happens, you can always wipe your computer clean and start over. But if you don’t have your data, you’re done for.
2) Anti-virus software is a must. Even software that hasn’t been updated at least stands a chance of catching viruses. Obviously, updating is the next important step here. If your software doesn’t have auto-updates, get some new software. Think of it as insurance. It’s not that expensive.
3) Personal firewall software or a hardware firewall is a good investment. This helps prevent viruses from breaking through holes that the OS vendor hasn’t fixed. Good software also helps keep an infected computer from spreading the infection to other computers.
4) Update everything! Make a list of all your security software and at least once a month, check it for updates, more often if you want to be extra safe. If the software supports auto-updates, you should turn it on.
5) Whatever happens, don’t panic. Spammers and virus writers want you to panic. It causes you to make rash decisions that benefit the vendor or virus writer.
6) Pop-up blockers and anti-spam software is getting better all the time. If you aren’t familiar with the vendors of this type of software, get help from a friend or your computer store of choice. This software isn’t a necessity, but it can reduce the chance that you will accidentally fall prey to a scam or scheme.
7) Lastly, educate yourself. The more you know and understand about how computers work and how viruses can get to you, the better prepared you’ll be to prevent them. To date, I’ve never been infected by a virus, but I’ve seen plenty blocked by my software and know-how. Always be suspicious of the unknown and get help when needed rather than ignore the situation, or worse, assume the unknown is “innocent” or “probably safe.”
If you think any of this sounds too expensive or too much trouble, consider how expensive it may be if you lose your data, have to reinstall everything on your computer, or worse, have your identity stolen. You have the power to keep these things from happening, or at least minimize the impact.
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