Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Thursday, October 23, 2003

100 Percent Virus-Free Mac OS X Adds More Privacy And Security

If you hadn't realized it yet, a 100 percent virus free computing environment is not as far fetched and away in the future as most Windows users would think.

panther200.jpe

Mac OS X, due to its natively-secure architecture and limited popularity has been consistently able to keep itself untouched by the ocean of security issues, threats, virus and worms epidemic which have become instead Windows-users daily worry and preoccupation.

But more than this, Apple has now aggressively targeted a large set of issues that make working and collaborating with Macs a truly secure and reliable experience.

If there is one thing that you can be sure of is that Apple has taken very seriously the issues of privacy and security and the new Mac OS X 10.3 aka "Panther" shows this throughout.

The new Apple operating system to become available tomorrow, October 24th, introduces over 150 new features that make Apple gain back some of its long lost, great OS-based features, while adding a slew of truly great enhancements.

Some pleasant comeback into the Apple OS are the ability to color code folders, while a stunningly great new feature called Exposé allows the user to clear away all open windows to show files and folders on the desktop.

Finally borrowed from Windows is the ability to fast-switch among open applications by simply pressing Command-Tab. The command allows you to rotate through all apps and documents open and to easily select the one you want to start working on.

But among all of these new additions and refinements privacy and security have taken a strong first seat and some of these appear to be really uniquely welcome innovations:

a) a new feature called FileVault allows the full encryption of all the files and information you have inside the so-called "Home folder". The process encrypts everything from file documents to bookmarks and email. It also "transparently" decrypts it as soon as you log in again on your Mac. The great advantage of this approach is that if your computer is stolen it will be indeed very hard for anyone to pull out any information from that folder.

b) Anti-spam and junk mail prevention controls have all been improved. The system can now be set to accept only email coming from people you have in your address book. A new feature blocks also the downloading of small "invisible" graphics contained in email messages and used by spammers to check your ability to effectively receive email at a specific address.

c) One other new feature bound to make a lot of users happy is Panther ability to sign you out of your account automatically after a certain time period (you set) has elapsed. This prevents unauthorized users from getting at your Mac anytime you wonder off for a coffee at the bar.

d) Deleting files now has become a truly secure operation with Panther making sure that each and every file deleted is actually fully overwritten and completely unrecoverable after your final decision to trash it.

e) Mac OS X is void of any peeking, tracking and monitoring approach in sharp contrast with the security and authentication policies enforced by Microsoft through his latest operating system. Panther is free from any type of copy protection or "activation" feature (unlike the infamous Microsoft Windows XP feature that allows transmission of personal information about your PC back to Microsoft servers).
Here is what the New York Times has to say on this topic:

"When you use Mac OS X, you feel like it's yours; when you use Windows, you feel as though you're using someone else's toys, and Mrs. Microsoft keeps peeking in on you."

f) Fast User Switching. Apple introduces with all of the visual magic it could a sensationally effective way of allowing another user to sit at your Mac and, without requiring you to log out, permits your work configuration and account to swiftly disappear into the background in one instant.

People unfamiliar with Mac OS X and the new Apple computers should also be aware that when buying a Mac one does get a whole great set of applications, features and services included in the price.

Among the most notable ones that Panther brings to your Mac desktop:

1) iChat - probably one of the best videoconferencing technologies now available, allows high quality audio and video conferencing on Internet high-speed connections with extreme ease of use.

2) Built-in CD-ROM and DVD burning capabilities with full support and compatibility with the Windows CD/DVD recording formats.

3) iMovie, iPhoto provide two great free application that allow digital image editing and full featured post-production of digital movies within your Mac.

4) Integrated digital fax functionalities. Throw away that old clunker and save on electricity, paper and time.

5) Printing directly to Windows network printers connected on your LAN.

6) Speedy standards-based browsing with Apple's own Safari.

7) Integrated Acrobat PDF viewing, editing and creation.

8) Integrated iDisk facility providing access to online servers where to store files and documents.

9) Integrated iTunes. iTunes can easily convert any of your music CD's into MP3 files (a task requiring a $10 add-on in Windows XP's Media Player).

10) Seamless driver-free connectivity to hundreds of peripheral devices. Connect dozens of digital cameras with no additional software.
Connect dozens of displays with no additional software.
Connect hundreds of printers with no additional software.
Connect dozens of DV camcorders with no additional software.
Connect dozens of input devices, including Bluetooth keyboards and mice, game controllers and graphics tablets, with no additional software.

Available tomorrow for USD $ 130, Mac OS X aka Panther is not only a 100 percent virus-free computing environment but it represents the best opportunity for safe, reliable and still enjoyable computing outside of the dominating Microsoft computing paradigm.

Highly recommended.

See also:

  1. If You're Getting Tired Of Fighting Viruses, Consider a New Mac
    The Wall Street Journal - October 23rd

  2. Apple's Latest 0.1 Adds a Lot
    The New York Times - October 23rd

  3. Better Safe than Sorry: The Dangers of Feeling Immune on a Mac
    Robin Good - February 7th

 
 
 
Readers' Comments    
2007-05-07 00:17:17

noboday

You are wrong.

I am not surprised, do Mac owners really know so little or do they just like to make up all these wild stories.

There are already OSX viruses, more will come and BSD viruses apply here too.

High horse, diiiiiss mount.



2007-02-27 19:19:26

roger

I routinly work on both PC's and MAC's and can say that I see fewer MAC's that get infected but then there are substantially fewer MAC's around here to get infected, and yes, They do get infected. Most MAC users just mistake it for some other problem and either reload or bring it to someone to "clean up".
Anyone who is familiar with virus's can tell you" YES THEY ARE OUT THERE" for the MAC OS X.
You just hear less of it because there is no glory for the black hats in bringing down a tiny percentage of computers when they can go for the big time. That is why Linux has been as safe as MAC's in the past and Novell's operating system still remains one of the most stable server operating systems ever.
Lets all quite the silly squablling about who is the best and fight to put and end to the nonsence of viruses. United we stand, Divided we fall. (Thats why virus code writers are winning so far!)



2005-09-16 22:32:27

wintermute

Geez. The "opener trojan" is basically a malicious script that you must purposely install using an administrators password. This is not a real virus and can barely be called a trojan. Basically, you have to be foolish enough to download a program of unknown origin and install it with an admin password. This far from a real virus. All other reported Mac viruses either only run on the old OS 9 system or are macro-viruses that only infect MS word docs. Of course, I'm sure someone, someday will make a Mac OS X virus, but to date, nothing has been found.



2005-08-03 01:36:42

Uff. I just adquired my new G5. It is beautifull and works fine. So with my old HP Pavillion I had so many troubles with virus and I had to change again to Apple. I am looking for some antivirus for Mac and just found this Virex. The question is: will the Virex work properly?



2005-07-18 21:30:55

ERIN

WE HAVE A VIRUS ON OUR OS X PANTHER MACHINES!!!



2005-06-09 04:44:54

IT Troubleshooter

(Supplement to previous post - posted under this on this site)

Google searching on just "Opener" has givem me many disturbing accounts of it being a hoax. Not true. Recognized by McAfee
this is just one example I have found in a search.

The situation is this... nothing is 100%, like cockroaches if you see 1, assume 100 unseen.



2005-06-09 04:24:09

IT Troubleshooter

Mac misconception #1: Not succeptible to virus/trojan/worm attacks.
Truth: WRONG! Only inherent protection of Mac OS is that they occupy such a small market, that few bother with writing viruses... because they won't get to see huge returns on their work/time investment to write them.

Mac misconception #2: OSX is more secure.
Truth: WRONG! Based on old BSD Unix... an old kernal that is very well known, holes are known and easy to wright viruses for.

Mac misconception #3: Updates/patches are enough to protect me.
Truth: WRONG! Since Apple has had it easy for such a long time, their trouble-shooting departments are not very prepared for virus attacks. Further with the new OS's and soon, new Intel processors (requiring new code) the risk of having security holes/vulnerabilities is worse than ever. *You have now been warned.

*** Do a search on "Opener" and you can get an idea. ***

Luck runs out...



2005-03-10 20:57:15

I'm right

Dean: hold down Option while launching entourage and have it rebuild your databases, it should solve the problem.



2005-02-22 03:21:49

Dean Netterville

Ronnie - I have recently received what I believe a virus which attached to Entourage Microsofts email application. The inbox started with a grey colored opaque window shade covering my messages. The shade would seem to move with the curser, weird! ANYWAYS - the next day the entire application would not even complete the startup process. I have not figured what this is and I'm using Mail from the OSX until I figure what the entourage issue is.



2005-01-01 02:26:22

ronnie

need help getting rid of virus stopping me from checking my e-mail



2004-12-14 17:05:20

pau

Underneath remove info:
http://www.cowfight.com/cf4/underhand/RemovingUnderhand.rtf



2004-10-03 16:01:05

doug

any real solutions to removing the underhand trojan server message on my mac?



2004-08-30 13:26:44

Mike

Hey about that Underhand Trojan for mac os X, how do you get rid of that? Any ideas? How malicious is it too? I think i have it.



2004-07-05 18:35:01

Simon Taylor

How do get rid of this virus that is using my email account & even my ebay account. I believe it's called 'WORM_NETSKY.B virus'. Please can you help.



2004-07-03 20:33:04

Brigitte isayev

someone crashes my connections and tries to change my passwords on messengers i always have to renew them if i has not installed internet security from norton he would easily penetrate my system
he already crashed my windows Xp system down
what can i do
everytime i want to install an antispyware there is always a window coming up with the same Ip 195.132.221.194. The six first numbers are always the same while the 5or 6 last always change i guess this persons uses a proxy server.
thanks for answering me
brigitte isayev



2004-04-18 18:37:22

sami

give free antivirus software and will 2% more customers



2004-01-27 00:27:48

Ian Bell

I'm afraid Mac OS X is not 100% free of malicious code. However, Autostart 9805 is a Mac OS 9 Virus. (This article refers to Mac OS X) so, theoretically you would not be infected unless you use classic. There are a few trojan horses for Mac OS X that i've seen; like the Underhand Trojan which can be found at http://www.cowfight.com/cf4/underhand/ if you need proof.



2003-12-26 15:16:36

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

After noticing your comment at the Robin Good web site re there being "no known ACTIVE Mac OS X virus(s)," I felt compelled to offer a brief synopsis of my several recent experiences using a new PowerMAC G-5, running OS X 10.3.2.

Yes, I know that Apple wants its buying (like hot cakes) public to believe that the new Macintosh architecture is impervious to viruses; but such is not the truth.

There is at least one version of the mac.autostart (or whatever it's called) virus going around... my G-5's been infected by it on several occasions, forcing me to zero-out and reinstall OS X.

I have no idea where the attacks are coming from; all I know is that they're real. It first becomes obvious something's not right when popups appear at re-start and shut-down, advising of a critical issue with low disk space in the home folder. Eventually, after the bug- which, at regular intervals, adds several hundred megabytes of gibberish to the drive- has effectively filled up same, the user is no longer able to access files nor to download updates from Apple. Neither may he turn off FileVault.

Once this condition has been created the only recourse is sudden death.

Communicating my difficulties to the folks at Applecare (with whom I have a three year service contract) I've been given several versions of what's behind my difficulties. One (version) alleges that the full disk scenario is a condition predisposed by FileVault, due to continuing flaws in that application... and that Apple R&D boys and girls are working on a fix, despite the recent download from Apple directed to that purpose. Another version has it that there are, indeed, viruses in the wild... one of which causes the full-disk anomaly, and that it is this bug my machine has been infected with. Four times. It (the bug) installs under the name DB through a vulnerability in iTunes, which is associated with the autoplay feature. Turn off autoplay, etc. After full infection has occurred, the file is called Desktop Print Spooler. Yet a third version, (conferred to me on December 24th) has it that there is no problem with FileVault and that it's the Autostart virus causing the crunch... but it's my fault for not having antivirus protection. (From whom?)

In the absence of antivirus protection, I'm beginning to realize that my MAC is basically a sitting duck. Additionally, spyware of the non-viral type has been downloaded into my G-5 on two separate occasions, forcing me to format and reinstall. I found tracking cookies in the Safari browser with the domain suffixes .ru and names like Excite... meaning my MAC had been set up for use as a multicast transmitter of porno to hundreds of other computers.

Just as there are few offerings in the way of antivirus for MAC, there are even fewer offerings for spyware removal software. I feel that this is unjust to the personal, home user of MAC products, since very good protection is available on the corporate/ enterprise level. Old, retired geezes like yours truly don't merit any crumbs.

MACscan does not run in the OS X 10.3.2 environment, and was completely worthless in OS 9. Aladdin markets a combo-ware that incorporates a spyware scanner/removal tool, which is not activated in the trialware version. The user must pay to find out if it's any good. Nix on that. Since December 20th Computer Associates seems to have discontinued active sales of its Virex line for personal MACs, as all the info re same at their web sites has been removed. What's going on? I swore off ever buying another Symantec product, and will stick to my decision come hell or high water. That leaves... nothing? And BTW, Agax hasn't been updated since 1999, I think- and V-scan (by Apple) is now defunct as of 2002.

Never allow anyone to tell you that the MAC OS X is impervious to virii and spyware, because it simply ain't so, my friend. I found out the hard way.



2003-10-23 20:10:28

AM

Command-Tab switching is in Jaguar (10.2) already - and even OS 9 with an add-on.
10.3 should be the best desktop OS ever.

About the Virex for Mac OS X - Virex for Mac OS is not even offered directly from Network Associates/McAffee - it is retail or via .mac
All the virus def's included are for virus with MS products - Entourage, Outlook, Office etc - there are no known ACTIVE Mac OS X virus. Any holes that were existing for earlier virus' for UNIX systems were fixed long time ago. Yes, you can write more virus' anytime - but the effort to write it for a UNIX system is considerably more than for Windows.

AM



2003-10-23 17:26:35

anonymous

Just out of curiosity, what does this contain, if not virus defs:
http://downloads-zdnet.com.com/3000-2228-10235911.html?tag=lst-0-2

?



 
posted by Robin Good on Thursday, October 23 2003, updated on Saturday, January 21 2006


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