Newsflash: Macs are vulnerable to virus attacks—film at 11!

Yes, you read that right—your shiny Apple could be hiding a worm.

Now, this isn’t “new” news—about two years ago, we launched an email campaign recommending that our Mac-based clients should get on the antivirus bandwagon, and many of you took that recommendation.

For those of you who still feel protected by the idea that “Macs don’t get viruses,” in this day and age of privacy issues and rampant identity theft, we want to make sure you’re aware of the threats out there affecting Mac users.

The hot new hacking trend is to trick Mac users into installing malware through pop-up web browser windows. “Mac Defender” (AKA “Mac Protector”) is a good (or is that bad?) example. This “scareware” uses phony virus alerts to trick users into installing what they think is an antivirus program. Once installed, the malware demands credit card information for “virus protection” (more like “extortion,” right?).

We’re also seeing a spike in link-based email attacks. It used to be that you had to open an infected attachment to get a virus. These days, viruses can also be delivered when a user clicks a link in what appears to be a legitimate email from their bank, Craigslist, or even the Federal Government!

What these attacks have in common is that they take advantage of uninformed users—so let’s walk through a typical pop-up attack so you know what to look out for!

There you are, cruising the web on your Mac (maybe you’re surfing with Safari, but you’re just as vulnerable using Firefox, Chrome or any other modern web browser). You’re checking out pics on Google Images, or getting your news fix on CNN.com—or going where you probably shouldn’t be—when BAM! Up pops an alert that looks like a legitimate Mac system window telling you that you have a virus!

This warning isn’t really from coming from your computer—it’s actually a pop-up website window disguised as a Mac system window. Clicking any buttons or links in this window starts the malware installation process. These pop-ups are often hiding on hacked websites whose owners aren’t even aware they’re hosting viruses!

Are you scared yet? Well, take a deep breath, count to three, and protect yourself. The Mac remains a very stable and robust operating system and Apple is vigilant when it comes to providing software updates to help keep your computer secure. But they can’t help or protect you if you give away the keys to your castle.

Be on the lookout for suspicious alerts. If you are prompted to enter your Mac password to install software, remember that you are being asked to give that software permission to do whatever it wants to your computer, so do NOT proceed unless you are 100% sure the software is trustworthy! Tricky, virus-infected software can’t hurt you if you don’t let it.

In closing, here are some Pro Tips to keep the bugs at bay:

• Use your Mac’s built-in firewall to limit outside network connections to your computer.
• Install antivirus software on your computer and make sure it’s set up to scan your system in real time.
• Never enter your password for software you don’t trust completely.
• Remember: If it seems suspicious, DON’T CLICK ON IT!

We recommend the following antivirus applications for your Mac (available through Island Technologies or direct from the manufacturers):

• ESET Cybersecurity (Intel Macs only)
• Intego Virus Barrier X6

Whether you install it yourself or call on Island Technologies for support, be sure to get antivirus software installed on all your Macs—your data is too valuable to leave unprotected!

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