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Apple tells Mac users: Get anti-virus

Bragging rights diminish by 12% in face of growing threat

SANS - Survey on application security programs

For the first time, Apple is recommending the use of anti-virus tools to protect Mac systems.

Long something of a phantom menace, strains of malware capable of infecting Mac machines have gradually been increasing in prevalence over recent months. In addition, VXers are making more use of web-based attack and applications specific vulnerabilities to infect PCs whatever their underlying operating system might be.

Windows-specific malware attacks are still orders of magnitude greater than assaults on Mac machines, but the risk to Apple fans is now enough for the Church of Jobs to admit a risk exists.

The admission that security scanner software was a good idea for Mac users came in an unheralded update to Apple's support site made on 21 November, first picked up by Brian Krebs at Security Fix on Monday.

Apple goes further than just recommending the use of one scanner to advise the use of multiple tools. "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple anti-virus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult," it said.

Quite aside from the expense, the use of multiple anti-virus scanners could affect system performance and smacks of overkill. Users who use one anti-virus scanner, a personal firewall and keeping up to date with patching would be safer than just relying on two anti-virus scanners to bail them out of trouble, according to general security best-practice.

Using multiple scanners on mail gateways and servers makes sense, but on the desktop the advice is a lot more questionable.

Apple suggests Intego VirusBarrier, Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh and McAfee VirusScan for Mac as possible security options. All these packages come at a price, while AVG is well known for supplying a basic version of its anti-virus software to Windows consumers at home at no charge. Avast! Home Edition and Clam AV provide similar options for Mac users. ®

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