Mac Malware and Better Passwords

Malware: Recently malware struck Mac users on a wider scale than ever before. Malware, defined as malicious code and encompassing viruses, trojan horses, and spyware, is something Windows users have been vigilant about for a long time, but has been mostly nonexistent on the Mac.

The malware, called MACDefender, tells you that your computer has been infected by a virus (which is not actually the case), tricking you into entering your credit card information so you can purchase their software.

If you haven't seen this yet, follow these steps on Apple's support page for avoiding MACDefender.

If you've already got MACDefender malware on your computer, go to Apple's support page for info on how to remove it.

If you've given your credit card info to MACDefender, call your credit card company immediately and have them cancel the card.

This begs the question, is it time to install antivirus software on my Mac?

We have not installed antivirus software on our own Macs, and are instead relying on our common sense not to download anything that seems suspicious.

However if you don't want to worry, then go ahead and install virus protection software. The best for Mac right now is Intego's VirusBarrier, available for $50 from Intego. You might experience a slowdown in computer performance once you run it (because it's constantly scanning your hard drive), which is the main reason why we're not installing it yet ourselves.

If you're running Windows on your Mac you should absolutely be running antivirus software on the Windows OS. For Windows 7 or earlier, we recommend installing Microsoft Security Essentials which is free.

For virus protection to work, you need to make sure the software stays updated. To update the Intego software, select NetUpdate from the Intego menu.

This new malware isn't a reason to panic, just call us if you have questions on any of the above.

Passwords: One of the easiest ways for someone to steal your data is by figuring out your passwords to various websites--no virus necessary. And this problem affects Mac users just as frequently as PC users.

Remember once someone has your email password, he can usually change all your other passwords on other web pages by clicking on the "I forgot my password" button on every site, and then reading the email with password instructions sent by that site.

Create strong passwords for all the websites you go to--especially your email, your bank, and your credit card sites. A strong password should have 10 characters, and should have uppercase and lowercase letters, plus at least 2 numbers and/or 2 symbols. Go online and change your passwords right now--we'll wait!

OK, now that you're back, how do you keep track of all those complicated passwords? We recommend 1Password software, $40. You remember one master password and it does the rest--and it can create secure passwords for you.

(May 2011)

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