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What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby DAGGILARR » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:37 pm

I am starting this new thread to try and generate a FOCUSED discussion on how best to protect Macs.

There seem to to be many AV programs available, but few in depth reviews. I am sure there must be many (like me) who are becoming concerned and would like to hear about such programs from those who have used them and/or any other practical suggestions. Of course its a given "do not connect" will do it, again there must be many (like me) who use their Macs for a variety of tasks many of which mean a connection is needed.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby agent funk » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:21 pm

Sorry if this is a slight "hi-jack" of your thread, but as I seem to be one of the few people here who has encountered the Trojan I just want to say I'm still a bit unsure myself.

The malware was on my son's Macbook pro running snow, my older imac (leopard) seems ok. Passed the Terminal tests and on running little snitch all seemed well. Now with my son's computer I'm having second thoughts about the provided remedy and have been wondering how I know it's worked. He's been a bit busy but I want him to install little snitch and see what comes up. I'm thinking it might be better to do a complete reboot as described here:

1. Back up all data to at least two different devices, if you haven't already done so.

2. Boot from your recovery partition (if running Mac OS X 10.7 or later) or your installation disc (if running an earlier version of the Mac OS), launch Disk Utility, and erase the startup drive. This action will destroy all data on the drive, so you must be sure of your backups.

3. Install the Mac OS.

4. Reboot and go through the initial setup process to create an account with the same name as your old one. Don’t import anything from your backups at this stage.

5. If running Mac OS X 10.6.x or earlier, run Software Update. You may have to run it more than once to fully update your system.

6. Restore the contents of the top-level subfolders of your home folder except “Library” from the most recent backup. The Library folder may contain components of the malware. It’s best not to restore anything from there. If you must do so, restore only files, not folders, and only if they’re visible in the Finder, and then only if you’re absolutely sure you know what they are and they haven’t been altered. Don’t restore anything in the home subfolder Library/LaunchAgents, if it exists, or any hidden files or folders, no matter where they are.

7. Launch Safari and select Safari ▹ Preferences… ▹ Security from the menu bar. Uncheck the box labeled Enable Java. Because of recurring security issues, the Java web plugin must be considered unsafe to use. (Note: I’m not referring to JavaScript, which is unrelated to Java, despite the similar names.) Very few websites have legitimate Java content nowadays. If you encounter one that does, and you think you can trust it, enable Java temporarily. Do this only if you know how to check for a malware infection immediately afterwards. If you’re not sure whether you know how to check, you don’t know how. Don’t rely on any kind of “anti-virus” software for protection.

8. Change every Internet password you have, starting with banking passwords. Check all financial accounts for unauthorized transactions. Take this step only after you’ve secured your system in the preceding steps, not before.

9. Reinstall your third-party software from fresh downloads or original media, not from backups which may be contaminated.

10. If you use any third-party web browsers, disable Java in their preferences, as you did with Safari in step 7.

That's not me I copied it and pasted from the Apple forum. Does it look ok as what to do?

Thing is I do find it strange that the malware was discovered by a Russian antivirus company and the fix from another security company, I mean how much free advertising did they just get? It worked though didn't it, after all here you are looking for antivirus software you never wanted before. I'm just paranoid I'm sure, they are bound to be completely altruistic guys right?

I think I might get my son to do a complete reboot as described above, he often buys off the internet and I would hate for him to get burned. Even though this thing hasn't actually started doing anything yet, as other people have said it might be better to act before it does.

He doesn't want to bother (teenagers!) so we agreed if little snitch shows nothing trying to upload we'll leave it, if it does we re-boot. I'm supposed to be the responsible adult here, that's quite funny actually........

Little snitch for now?
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:32 pm

As a basic checklist of what to do if faced with a messy situation that is great! Thanks. I'll be bookmarking this in case I ever need it (let's hope not).

Cheers,

CC
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby s_e_a_n » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:52 pm

In response to the question posed in the topic header - there are NO Mac viruses. The flurry of excitement recently is about a trojan which is an app which you, the user, need to explicitly invite into your system. Whether you feel obliged to buy into the whole anti-virus software world or not, do please realise that no software will ever protect you from yourself. You will always (assuming of course that you hold the passwords to your computer) be open to some con-man fooling you into opening the door. Switching off java is a great suggestion, whether you are worried about this trojan or not, as it is a waste of computing power... it is used by advertising people generally to put flashy stuff onto websites. Also, avoid rubbishy sites, that is usually why teenagers get hit by these trojans, they are gullible and looking for titillation. If you want 100% protection you are most of the way there by using a mac, not because mac-users are in the minority as most pc-users will shout, but because osx is well written and secure. However, even fort knox has a door that can be opened... just be very careful who you open it to.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby DAGGILARR » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:07 pm

Not a highjack at all, though you outline a response to infection rather than a response to threat. You do however raise an interesting point about how real is this ? given that it is apparently coming from those with a vested interest. (did this story break on April 1st )

Any way I for one would like to be prepared given the growth of Apple (albeit by becoming toymakers) the threat potential grows. If I were a cyber-criminal I might view a significant number of complacent Mac users a tasty target ! given that the majority of said Mac users firmly believe they are invulnerable; Apples are ripe for the picking, so to speak.

So far I have installed Sophos (free), Little Snitch, and disabled Java. I have heard that ClamX AV (free) an AV program, is worth a look, as is an email scanner but not sure which.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby agent funk » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:20 pm

I think there are two different issues here - viruses and trojans. Of course your right about what you say about teenagers - that's how my son got infected and he's quite good compared to some. Just visiting the site(s) with Java on was enough, no need for anything else from the user so quite scary. People like yourself might know enough about computers to realise Java wasn't safe. People like me with limited knowledge need to be better informed by Apple, I had no idea Java was unsafe. I also don't like the way the Java patch has only been done for Snow and Lion, Apple can't be bothered to update the older OSX's. How would the ordinary user running Leopard know to all of a sudden have to disable Java without a prompt from Apple. They disable Java in Lion apparently, but who knew that before this came up? Not your average user for sure.

As for viruses, well I'm not so sure it is down to the system being so good. It's a fact macs can't run windows viruses and windows machines spread the virus to each other. However a Mac virus wont run on a windows machine and so couldn't get far, as it could only spread mac to mac it gets spotted before it does, not much point in writing viruses that don't do much. However with the rising popularity of Macs this will change and one day there will be a point in writing those viruses, and someone will. If Mac's prove resistant to them then, then we can boast about the system being too good for the virus. I wouldn't get too smug now, you might be eating those words in a few years. Personally I hope your proved right.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:49 pm

I'm going to act as thick as I actually am now and ask two questions:

If I only update software using the 'Software Update' utility, or very specifically from known software providers sites (e.g. UAD) am I likely to avoid the Trojan risk? Sounds like Trojans 'pop up' as an option to upgrade software when visiting dubious sites.

Quite often Apple give 'Security Updates' as part of the 'Software Update' utility. I was under the impression these worked to help reduce risk of infection?

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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby agent funk » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:54 pm

the 1st incarnation worked like that, the new (last week) version will get into your computer just by visiting a web page where it lives, it gets in if you have Java enabled without you doing anything. That's why Apple just updated their Java security, but it's too late for some people and they have no update for older (earlier than snow leopard) systems.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby DAGGILARR » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:46 am

Found this: TEST4FLASHBACK this will download a little app that will tell if your machine is infected or not.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Dishpan » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:04 am

> The flurry of excitement recently is about a trojan which is an app which you, the user, need to explicitly invite into your system.

You're wrong. The latest version can infect your system without any passwords or user consent if you have Java enabled.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Dishpan » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:06 am

> Quite often Apple give 'Security Updates' as part of the 'Software Update' utility. I was under the impression these worked to help reduce risk of infection?

They do but Apply are often late! The latest one was fixed (in Java) two months ago but Apple have just released the update despite other platforms having it ages ago.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby arkieboy » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:18 am

While it is quite difficult to remotely gain root access to a Mac it isn't impossible. However I would concede that the effort it takes for the low extra benefit gained means that if you are careful then you should be ok without running AV software. Hacking these days is mostly about hijacking your browser session to get your credit card details ...

If you decide to be AV free, then some of the things you should consider include
* create a dedicated administrator account with a hard password and set yourself to be a standard user
* consider using Chrome or Firefox as your browser rather than Safari
* religiously update your mac with every new patch from Apple
* upgrade from Leopard and Tiger immediately
* avoid using this machine for checking your bank details or purchasing online

On the other hand, a brand new mac will happily run oodles of stuff and AV software without a hiccough...

If you are a professional user with a validated installation that you depend to get your job done, then I think we're getting to the time you might need to consider turning off the internet and getting yourself another machine for internet access.

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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby agent funk » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:00 pm

Yes, I've been thinking of upgrading from leopard because of this. Mainly because Apple aren't doing any more upgrades for it. I see they are going to stop doing their own Java updates now and allow Oracle (I think that's their name?) to do them. Maybe they would do Java updates for older OSX's, even though Apple wont.

Thing is though I haven't yet read of anyone being infected who's NOT on the newest platforms (snow & lion). I realise this doesn't make it safe, just a bit ironic.

I still believe the Russian antivirus company are the ones who put the Trojan out there in the first place.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:05 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:Quite often Apple give 'Security Updates' as part of the 'Software Update' utility. I was under the impression these worked to help reduce risk of infection?

Presumably. And if the MAC OS is as inherently immune to outside threat as it's reputed to be, it's difficult to see why these updates are necessary.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby s_e_a_n » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:26 pm

A couple of things... There are many millions of macs in use every day (over 75 million back in 2009 - maybe twice that today), if a virus writer is not interested in a market that size then perhaps it is because the market is too difficult to penetrate.

If the recent threat allows unrestricted access past your system password then it is indeed a virus, just like the ones that infect windows machines. This is astounding and I will eat my hat and my words if this is the case. I will continue researching this and return with any useful findings.

DAGGILARR wrote:Found this: TEST4FLASHBACK this will download a little app that will tell if your machine is infected or not.

This is exactly the sort of thing that invites a trojan into your system! Please just stick with what Apple or an authorised local dealer or support centre tell you.

Exalted Wombat wrote:Presumably. And if the MAC OS is as inherently immune to outside threat as it's reputed to be, it's difficult to see why these updates are necessary.

OSX sits on Unix. Unix has been developed from the ground up to be a secure system. Any system can be compromised by the unwitting. Perhaps the next security patch will check for the damage done by a user choosing to install and run test4flashback.

Back in the late eighties a reputable uk mac magazine accidentally released a virus on its cover disk. That is the only time in 28 years of using macs that I have been infected. I have never felt the need to use anti-virus software and I am firmly convinced (being the conspiracy theorist that I am) that those with the most incentive to write viruses are those who sell anti-virus software - I have, therefore, always been rather unwilling to subsidise their R&D costs. Those who come from the pc world and feel naked and exposed without anti-virus software, please feel free to install it. Those who don't feel this need can follow the mac news sites like macobserver.com and feel secure in the knowledge that those who are in the know will identify and deal with these threats long before they are an issue.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby agent funk » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:56 pm

sean it's not a virus, it is a trojan and it can get in without a password (or any action by the user other than visiting the wrong site) via a hole in Java, hence the recent Java patch from Apple (months late) which only helps the people on the latest platforms and the rest of us in the dark.

hopefully we will find out a bit more soon, but I hope your convictions are proved right.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Dishpan » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:48 am

> if a virus writer is not interested in a market that size then perhaps it is because the market is too difficult to penetrate.

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2149191

:The conception that Apple, Inc. computers running OS X are magically more secure than Windows computers was dealt another setback this week. Using a flaw in Apple's pre-installed first-party Safari browser, it took French security pro Chaouki Bekrar merely 5 seconds to hijack the unwitting MacBook at the CanSecWest Conference's pwn2own contest in Vancouver, British Columbia."

"On a most basic level the attack exploited Apple's weak memory protections in OS X Snow Leopard. Microsoft, more popular and more commonly attacked, includes two critical types of memory protection -- data execution prevention and robust address space layout optimization (ASLR) -- both of which attempt to prevent memory injection attacks. By contrast, Snow Leopard only supports ASLR and the implementation is badly botched according to hackers."

"The attack also exploited poor coding in Apple's branch of WebKit, which features many bugs and security flaws. While Apple's WebKit branch, which powers its Safari browser, shares a certain amount of code with Google's WebKit browser Chrome, Google has added much more robust security layers and is less buggy."

--

To be fair to Apple, many of the worst, OS level vulnerabilities have been fixed in Lion.


> Those who don't feel this need can follow the mac news sites like macobserver.com and feel secure in the knowledge that those who are in the know will identify and deal with these threats long before they are an issue.

Again, you're completely wrong. I got the latest trojan and there was no information on it and no way to remove it.

Hey, keep drinking the kool aid though s_e_a_n and believe what you want, despite evidence to the contrary...
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby s_e_a_n » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:40 pm

So dishpan, can you tell us how you actually got the virus? What site did you visit, what browser and version of the OS are you running, did you have java enabled?

As usual there's a lot of hot air around - and most of it seems to be from the pc crowd. I'm not an american so I'm not sure what the kool-aid reference is to but I have used macs for a long time and don't seem to get these problems that people scream and shout about every year or so. I am only running snow leopard as I find lion to be a pain in the a*** and I don't have software update turned on so I do not have the latest of whatever apple are offering in the way of security updates (I have a very slow broadband as I live on the edge of the world so I cannot be bothered downloading a constant stream of anything let alone security updates).

But please do tell us all how you let this trojan in, I'm sure that would do others a load of good.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Dishpan » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:01 pm

> So dishpan, can you tell us how you actually got the virus? What site did you visit, what browser and version of the OS are you running, did you have java enabled?

Hi sean. Yes I have java enabled. Not sure the site to be honest, I just got the warning from Little Snitch. I know for a fact I didn't run anything out of the ordinary or web related and I didn't use software update.

> I have used macs for a long time and don't seem to get these problems that people scream and shout about every year or so.

I don't either Sean, but your claim that it's because of how secure the OS is just isn't true when experts almost unanimously say the opposite. The difference is that people don't exploit the holes in OsX, which is a huge advantage to using it!

> I am only running snow leopard as I find lion to be a pain in the a*** and I don't have software update turned on so I do not have the latest of whatever apple are offering in the way of security updates (I have a very slow broadband as I live on the edge of the world so I cannot be bothered downloading a constant stream of anything let alone security updates).

There's some pretty good updates on software update too which can improve performance and fix other issues so maybe give it a go! Out of interest, what are your issues with Lion? I have to say it's (for me) the first version of OsX where I'm (almost) totally content with and I no longer miss Windows features. And that is a pretty amazing thing for me to say.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby s_e_a_n » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:25 pm

Dishpan wrote:> So dishpan, can you tell us how you actually got the virus? What site did you visit, what browser and version of the OS are you running, did you have java enabled?

Hi sean. Yes I have java enabled. Not sure the site to be honest, I just got the warning from Little Snitch. I know for a fact I didn't run anything out of the ordinary or web related and I didn't use software update.

> I have used macs for a long time and don't seem to get these problems that people scream and shout about every year or so.

I don't either Sean, but your claim that it's because of how secure the OS is just isn't true when experts almost unanimously say the opposite. The difference is that people don't exploit the holes in OsX, which is a huge advantage to using it!

> I am only running snow leopard as I find lion to be a pain in the a*** and I don't have software update turned on so I do not have the latest of whatever apple are offering in the way of security updates (I have a very slow broadband as I live on the edge of the world so I cannot be bothered downloading a constant stream of anything let alone security updates).

There's some pretty good updates on software update too which can improve performance and fix other issues so maybe give it a go! Out of interest, what are your issues with Lion? I have to say it's (for me) the first version of OsX where I'm (almost) totally content with and I no longer miss Windows features. And that is a pretty amazing thing for me to say.

I don't use software update, I go to apple's site and download any updates I need - I can then use the same update on multiple macs without redownloading. I haven't used a pc in anger since the mid eighties so any pc like features in lion are lost on me. I see it as too much icing and too little cake. There are a load of pc and ex pc people going on about the vulnerabilities of macs and there have been for decades. As this is termed a trojan then I can only assume that the user has to actually do something to invite it in - otherwise it would be called a virus. I have searched interminably to find out how people are infected to no avail which is why I asked you. What I did read was that it would not install itself if little snitch was installed - or is this another incarnation?
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Dishpan » Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:52 pm

As far as I know (but I could be wrong), that was the last version which appeared as a software update and DID require you to enter your password. It also apparently didn't work if certain other apps were installed too (Word for example) as it made them crash.

This one is different and I didn't get asked for a password or install anything. To be fair, this could have affected other systems too (although they were patched long ago).
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby 3rdConstruction » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:51 am

I've gotten a bit foggy headed after doing a lot of online browsing on this topic. Thought I read somewhere (can't find it again now) that it might help for future protection if you just shut off Java. On Safara preferences under "Security, there are two checkboxes: Enable Java, and Enable Javascript.

1) Is either one or both essential for web browsing?
2) Is there any difference between these as far as trojan vulnerability goes?

Any insight is very much appreciated!
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby Tui » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:56 am

Java or Javascript are different animals. There's only certain business software that still relies on Java, so, for browsing you can typically keep it turned off. Apple, however, recommends to keep Javascript enabled.
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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby arkieboy » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:36 am

the recent Java update that removes flashback also turns java off in the web browser so if you have updated then you should be good to go in this regard.

switching off javascript will make you safer at the expense of a considerable amount of functionality on the web.

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Re: What is the best way to protect a mac from viruses and malware

Postby xFasterMikeyH » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:57 am

3rdConstruction wrote:1) Is either one or both essential for web browsing?
Javascript is pretty much essential for web-browsing. However it is also an attack vector, which is something of a problem. If you're prepared to have your browsing disrupted _frequently_ then NoScript http://noscript.net/ will protect you, but you will end up clicking 'allow' a lot. It forces you to think about who you trust, which is 'a good thing' but it's also a PITA (especially if someone else wants to use your machine for browsing).

As far as the AV/no AV debate goes, I'm unsure as yet (remember that AV has an impact on the performance of your system), but there are some general good practices you can adhere to:
1) Don't log in with an 'admin' account. You can see this under the 'users' section of System Preferences.
2) Don't put your admin password in unless you're confident about the software install that's asking for it.

In this instance having any of the following installed:
VirusBarrier X6.app
iAntiVirus.app
avast!.app
ClamXav.app

Would have prevented getting infected, but not because they do anything, the installer actively looks at your system and if it finds those apps, deletes itself. If you'd had the following apps installed, you'd have been alright as well:
Little Snitch
Xcode
HTTPScoop.app
Packet Peeper.app

None of those offer AV protection.

If you'd put your Admin password in when prompted and had the following apps installed:
Microsoft Word.app
Microsoft Office 2008
Microsoft Office 2011
Skype.app

You'd have been alright as well.

Cheers,
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