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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Mac users should do in the face of the new and dangerous world

Some communication with Mac users over the last day, regarding the Flashback malware and the changing state of the Apple Eco-system, made me realize that for many Mac users the new reality is somewhat like news regarding the skies falling down. The paradigm shift is so huge, they just don't get it.

So, the old PC lore regarding safety and security, all Mac users should adopt -

follow wise security rules in your network setup and in your net conduct;

  • Use a reasonably configured Network hub, so that your home network will be protected by a firewall; 
  • Avoid visiting the darker corners of the web without reasons; 
  • Do not open links or files that were sent to you from people you do no know or that bear suspicious subjects or descriptions. 

Use a modern version of your Operating System (O/S) ;

Make sure your O/S is of a relatively up-to-date version. Don't get stuck with versions that are not longer provided with security updates. Remember - the amount of energy spent on updating should be similar to a reasonable portion of the amount of damage that may be caused to you by information theft performed using a security hole, of which there is an abundance in older operating systems.

Make sure you update all the software products you use with patches and updates supplied by the software vendor;

Make sure to update your software regularly with updates and patches. Apple is not as quick on supplying security patches as some people would tell you (you don't have to believe me - just think about the secuirty hole in Apple's maintained Java which is behind the Flashback horror tale), so if you do get a software update - apply it as soon as possible.

Backup (it was critical before, but your detailed backup plan should refer to the new risks as well); 
Backup all your important data. Remember that Backups should be performed in a manner that will enable you to recover from both a complete loss of all data (usually hardware failure) and from a los of some of the data. Also remember that copies of backups should be put aside during planned time-frames. That way, if some of your data has been compromised/altered/damaged/hurt in a way, you may have it backed up in an old backyp copy, made at a time when your computer was still healthy.

 Use Anti malware software - 
Use a good Anti-malware software, preferrably one that aims at detecting all sorts of threats - viruses, malwares, phishing attempts, etc.

It is clear that Apple's products are becoming just as prone to attacks as PCs have been for ages, and considering the great role computers fill in our daily lives, not using a good security software in such an environment is very much like practising unsafe sex.

Which is best ? It is a great question and sadly, really good answers will require a year or two, as time and experience will tell us which products really protect, and which only give a false sense of  security. 

There are several good anti-malware-software lists which can be a starting point, for your search and inquiry for your choice - 
As a first step, it would probably be best to use a trial version of one of the more respectable names of PC security, such as - 
My personal favorite would be Avira's solution. They have been one of my favorites in the PC arena, one of the leading software security in the PC arena for years, and their ongoing strategic choice to provide home users free access to their quality products makes life for the home-administrator much easier.

Safe Surfing !

If you are a Mac user and you still think you don't need to do anything, do yourself a favor, and read the following articles:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Apple's Eco-system is no longer a safe haven

One of the famous replies in the which-is-a-better-door-stopper argument - PC or Mac, is the better security claim. Despite it being the other side of the coin of the much smaller user-base and software-base, it has been true for a very long time that Apple's Macintosh Eco-system was a very safe street. So safe, actually, that many Apple users have grown to believe in the myth of a safe heaven, and did not fully realize the implications of Apple's huge success of recent years in the smart gadgets market.

But times, as the late Steve Jobs quoted so eluquently, are changing.
What was the knowledge of professionals only a year ago, is now widespread street wisdom. This is no longer a general virus/malware that attacks Macs together with PCs like the legenday DNS changer, but software aimed specifically at Apple's Eco-system.

Flashback, a sophisticated malware using a hole in Apple's maintained Java, was especially developed for Apple's OS/X, and despite a rather lame beginning, it is evolving quite rapidly, while demonstrating the advantages of a villain operating in a community that has known no evil for a long time.

Like the recent famous evil in Apple's quite lake, There is already a reliable fighting method against the Flashback malware.

But the real change is undeniable. Apple's products are now a part of the great battlefield among "evil" hackers and the protective software packages. Innocense, once gone, cannot be regained. The only question is when is this reality going to become a part of iOS users' lives. The fact that Apple's App Store is not invulnerable is not news. It is only a question of time before the new reality of OS/X users will become the reality of iOS users. While PC users have learned to live in a confusing and dangerous digital world more or less from the beginning of the PC, Apple's users have been promised a different deal. This new reality is a great opportunity for many security companies, but it is also a milestone for Apple's Eco-system. What will users do when they are presented with the realization that close architectures do not deliver on the promise of high-end security ?