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McAfee protects your Mac without affecting performance

Glenn Fleishman | Nov. 28, 2011
Mac OS X users are notably resistant to the ploys of anti-virus, anti-malware, and security-monitoring software offered for our platform. "What--me worry?" could be our motto, as well as, "Not paying for that!" Over the long haul, that attitude has served us well, but the nature and diversity of risks has increased, and is likely to get worse.

Mac OS X users are notably resistant to the ploys of anti-virus, anti-malware, and security-monitoring software offered for our platform. "What--me worry?" could be our motto, as well as, "Not paying for that!" Over the long haul, that attitude has served us well, but the nature and diversity of risks has increased, and is likely to get worse.

McAfee Internet Security tries to address the virus, malware, and Trojan Horse issue directly, but also includes a robust, configurable firewall along with a Firefox plug-in that vets and reports on search result links. Despite my many years without such software installed, I'm strongly tempted to continue to use the package after testing because it's a multipronged and easy-to-manage extra layer that doesn't seem to slow my computer down one bit, while providing useful information and the right degree of control to block remote access.

The fundamental problem with a tool that prevents the execution of malicious software has been that the damage is usually done by the rapid spread of such attacks before the protective program has been updated. McAfee, like other anti-virus software makers, is constantly monitoring and testing for new vectors and writing defenses against them, and pushes out responses to discoveries in the wild quite rapidly. The software is set to pull down updates every four hours, too.

Protect yourself

Given that only a handful of Trojans and viruses have appeared in recent years for the Mac, and that they are laughable in their ability for users with any degree of proper caution to avoid, this part of the security suite might seem useless. But I'll argue it is not.

First, it prevents you from passing on Windows viruses that may be sent as attachments that you then guilelessly hand off to friends, relatives, or colleagues using an unpatched version of Windows. (This is also useful when copying files back and forth between a virtual Windows machine or a Boot Camp volume.) Second, you can recommend this software to those who might not have the instinct to stay away from unknown software or attachments. A relative might appreciate having this software installed to prevent them from making a bad choice due to their lack of computer knowledge--especially if they try to install Trojans masquerading as legitimate files. Third, if someone else uses your computer without the same care you have, you're protected there, too, against old threats and new ones. True, Apple has built virus defenses into Snow Leopard and Lion that are regularly updated. Consider McAfee a more explicit second line of defense.

I tested McAfee's virus protection against the very few known Trojan horses and other exploits that have been discovered, such as MacDefender. McAfee refused to let me launch or uncompress the archives containing the malicious files, and put them into a Quarantine area to make it simple to review them in a list and then delete them. I tried sending myself a virus via email, and McAfee prevented that from downloading as well. The software can defang the malicious part of infected files, but all the files I tested were entirely comprised of malware.

 

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