Previously, I discussed ways that you can reduce the risk of contracting malware on Macs. I prefer to discuss security measures that don’t require additional software, but at times, you need tools that can better tackle the problem when managing large environments is your responsibility. It can also be much easier to deploy software and let the software manage the responsibility of monitoring the environment rather than micro-managing each machine individually. The selection of malware and antivirus applications for the Mac are sparse, but they’re solid, having learned from their PC counterparts.
Before we dive in and and take a look at a few of these apps, I’d like to provide an explanation as to why having security software is beneficial on the Mac, and why it’s a good idea to obtain it from the Mac App Store. Flashback was designed to scan your hard drive and search for applications that could potentially detect it. In the instance that an application was discovered, Flashback was programmed to abort the installation. That’s not to say that all future iterations of Flashback will behave in the same manner, but just having had installed one of several popular virus/malware applications for the Mac would have prevented Flashback from installing to begin with. Additionally, for situations where a Mac can sit for days or weeks unattended, it is possible that such applications will have had time to update its detection definition list before a malicious application has had an opportunity to infect it.
Due to Apple’s app review process, using the Mac App Store to obtain your security apps reduces the risk of installing fake antivirus programs that actually contain malware. Apple is also adding a new feature in the next version of OS X called Gatekeeper, which will allow developers to sign their applications with Apple and verify that the app is not considered malware, even outside the Mac App Store. Unfortunately as of this writing, Gatekeeper is not currently available, and it will be some time before the majority of developers adopt it.
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of having antivirus and malware protection, I’m going to suggest a few Apps from the Mac App Store for protecting your Mac.
Bitdefender: Virus Scanner is free, one of the few that boasts the ability to detect Flashback, and is capable of scanning for potential Windows threats that could be tucked away in an email.
ClamXav is also free and uses the open source antivirus engine ClamAV known for it’s fast definition releases.
Kaspersky Virus Scanner $9.99, is a well known application for the PC. What you get with this app is reliable definition updates and streamlined performance; when speed is important, performance might be the determining factor.