Macs Don’t Have Viruses; Beware the Trojan Horse

copyright © 2012 don webster

Have you ever seen those sites that warn you that there’s a problem with your computer and you should call them right away? In the past year or so, we’ve had more and more people call us to ask what is wrong with their computer when they got this warning in their browser. It’s a good thing they did: it’s a scam. Usually they warn that either a virus or something else has gone wrong and you should let them fix it.

To make it very clear, there is no way a browser can scan your computer much less detect any viruses on it. To make matters even clearer, to date there is not a single virus on the Mac with the current Mac OS X system. Before Mac OS X, there were viruses. In fact, the Mac was the first to have them. Fortunately though, Mac OS X doesn’t give computer viruses the environment to infect a Mac initially. It’s a slick con though as someone recently paid a company $1,000 per computer to remove something that was never there in the first place. A quick call to MacSavers could have saved them quite a bit.

Does that mean the Mac is completely safe? Yes and no is an odd answer, but it’s the right one. The Mac and Mac OS X are safe from any intrusions like viruses, but makers of virus like software have found the one weak link in the Mac’s armor: the user.

They have found that if they trick someone into installing their software, they have complete access to everything they need. They require the user to enter their password into their user account on the Mac to get that access. Most tricks involve fake Flash installers and other software to make you think you are installing something legitimate, but in reality you are installing their malicious code that is designed to get your information to sell on the open black market.

There is one other form of software that has caused issues, but was unintentional to begin with. It’s also very prevalent on PC’s: adware. Lately, legitimate installers have started to install adware on people’s computers, sometimes without their knowledge. Oracle’s Java installer comes up with a screen to change your search engine to Yahoo! and add Yahoo! ads to browser pages. Fortunately they offer a way to uncheck this option, but many shareware software authors are not so helpful. In fact, we had one user have adware installed from an Application they purchased from the Mac App Store, so it can come from just about anywhere.

If you have ever opened a browser and tons of ads on the sides of your browser window, then you have one of these adware programs running. Usually they won’t cause any problems more than being annoying, but they will slow your computer down since it takes processing power and internet bandwidth to put the ads in the browser.

Getting rid of these types of ‘malware’ are easy enough to do. Just follow this link:

Then, click the download button. Once downloaded, open up the disk image and drag the application to the Applications folder. Then navigate to the program Malwarebytes Anti-Malware in your Applications folder and double-click it. Once opened, click the ‘Scan’ button. If it finds any problems, choose to eliminate them.

Some have asked if they need to keep software running like an antivirus program, but that takes away processing power as well. It’s also rather pricey for something that really isn’t needed. Just run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware every three months or so to just check and make sure you are clean.

Oh, and if you see a browser window tell you to call them to clean up your Mac, just close it and move on. If it won’t close, you can force-quit (CMD + OPTION + ESC) the browser. If it’s Safari, then hold down the shift key the next time you open it so it won’t try to re-open the windows with the malicious site.

As always, if you have any questions at all, call us at 469.9091190. It’s free and we can save you thousands.

Kevin A. Black has been a user, consultant, and trainer for graphic software and hardware for over 27 years,
specializing in integration and troubleshooting for printers, ad agencies and designers on the Macintosh platform.
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