While I know that no computer, regardless of platform should be without adequate protection from viruses and spyware, the recent news about the Mac Defender malware that has been hitting many Apple computers has been rather interesting. I have heard countless times that viruses are no worry for Mac users because they "just don't get viruses." This is of course untrue, but humorous none the less given the exposure o recent virus outbreaks on the Mac and then Apple's reluctance to assist customers with the removal of the bad software.
Before there is a comment firestorm about Apple's responsibility here, I must say that I do not think it is Apple's responsibility to remove the virus or malware from customer machines. It is the responsibility of the user to have protective software on their computer regardless if it is a Mac or a PC, or if it is for personal or business use.
What does it do?
VirusBarrier X6 is a unified protection utility that protects against viruses, spyware, phishing, and includes a two way firewall. The simple installation and background operation make the tool a great choice for Mac users.
When I installed VirusBarrier X6 I was impressed at the simplicity of the installation (which I am still finding to be a pleasant surprise with all items on the Mac). Once installed, a wizard appeared to assist in the setup of the application. Really this was a walkthrough of the features of the program. Each page mentioned a feature of the application in a very straightforward way.
I also found the data indicator that lives on the Mac toolbar to be very helpful. It displays the data going in and out of your system in real time. It is sort of interesting how many bytes of data go across an active interface even when you only have email open and are working in Microsoft Word.
The final screen in the wizard allows you to choose the level of protection you wish to configure VirusBarrier to use:
- Basic: Only provides essential virus and malware protection
- Default: The recommended settings, providing virus, malware, phishing protection and data monitoring
- Strong: All main virus and malware protections are enabled. Privacy settings are also enabled.
On this screen you can also select to perform a full scan of your Mac when setup is completed.
VirusBarrier X6 ConfigurationOnce the initial scan got going, see Figure B, I noticed that VirusBarrier does not update its definitions before performing an initial scan. Because these things are out of date almost as fast as they are released, it seems this should be something that happens right away.
The overview tab of the application provides a good look at what, from a high level, VirusBarrier X6 is doing as it checks your Mac for malware, but there are several other options that can be viewed in detail:Firewall: This pane allows the user to modify the firewall settings in place on the Mac. By default, other computers on your local network can interact with your Mac as a server. This can be turned off or opened up further as per the needs of the user. My recommendation would be to tighten settings and allow Internet access, but not to allow other machines to connect to your Mac (even on the local network) in most cases. You can always allow connections as needed. Antivandal: This pane allows you to configure policies for dealing with detected spyware and phishing threats. The default settings here pop up warnings when threats are detected, but this can be changed so VirusBarrier X6 will take action when sites trigger an alert and block these addresses permanently or for a set amount of time.
Some of the items within the Antivandal section also have advanced settings which are outlined below, the setting must be checked (enabled) to scan:
- Intrusion Attempts - allows the user to specify how many invalid password attempts to allow for different applications
- Ping Attacks - configure the sensitivity of the application to ping flooding
- Port Scans - configure sensitivity to port scans
- SYN flooding - configure sensitivity to SYN flooding
- Anti-Phishing - turning this setting on prevents phishing attacks and allows trusted sites to be added that are exempt from monitoring.
- Ad-Banner Filter - filters ads on the Internet and custom sites can be added for filtration by the user
- Cookie Filter - allows the user to define a list of sites cookies will be sent to, if this setting is enabled, cookies will only be allowed for listed sites
- Information Hiding -allows information about your browser and computer to be hidden from websites. As a caution, some sites will prevent you from accessing them if this information is not provided; a warning to this effect is included here.
- Web Threats -watch for web threats that you might be unaware of while browsing the Internet. A list of trusted sites can be configured as well. Sites listed here will not be treated as web threats.
The anti-spyware setting allows applications to be chosen and settings applied that will allow or deny them in making outgoing connections or prompt the user when these applications require access.
The data vault section allows certain information, like credit cards or email addresses to be kept private. With this enabled, this information cannot go out. Any information type specified can be included here to ensure the safety of data on the protected Mac.
In addition to these items, you can configure VirusBarrier X6 to take action automatically when threats are found as well as schedule regular scans of the system. The default settings are to prompt the user for action on found threats and no scheduled scans are configured.
Who is it for?
This application is a great choice for the Mac user who wants to have a "set it and forget it" experience with malware prevention software. It was easy to configure and handles most things right out of the box.
The fact that the application didn't update definitions before the first scan is something I didn't like much, but hopefully that will be corrected in future versions. I was also hoping that a default schedule for scanning might have been enabled, perhaps weekly, just to ensure that scans happen if the user chooses no action. These things aren't deal breakers for me, but would be nice to improve the experience just a bit.Note: While VirusBarrier X6 protects Mac systems from Mac and Windows Malware, this application will not protect Windows guest systems running on the Mac. A different product, VirusBarrier Dual Protection, is needed for that.
What does it cost and where can I get it?
The application can be downloaded from the Intego website at http://www.intego.com and has two SKUs:
Standard Pack - protects up to 2 Macs for $49.95
Family Pack - protects up to 5 Macs for $99.95
The pricing seems to be on par with the standard antivirus offerings I saw from competitors as well.
Some competing products include:
As I said up front, all computers regardless of make/model/color/size/usefulness should be protected from viruses and malware. Both are huge pains to remove and cleanup so taking steps to keep your system clean out of the box is a good move. Mac users, both in organizations where these applications may be required, and those who have Macs for personal use should consider the seriousness of viruses and malware even if these events are few and far between (or this is what they have heard). Treat your computer well and take care of it and you will be rewarded by performance and longevity.
All of the features provided by VirusBarrier, including some of the items made visible within the application, like networks, data transfer, and services in use in addition to the threat and information protection that the application provides make it a great choice for Mac users.
How do you keep your Mac free from viruses and malware? Do you think protection that is not already built in to the Mac is necessary? Let us know in the comments.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.