Worried about malware on the Mac? Try this

It’s sadly easy to click on the wrong link on a web page or in an email and end up with a software package downloaded to your computer, rooted somewhere to make your experience surfing the web an endless misery of ads. Adware and malware abound, not just on PC but on Mac too.

Apple continues to refine OS X to make it as resistant to malware infection as possible, and third party software exists to help as well. Here’s a quick roundup of what you can do to close the wagons, as it were.

Let’s start with what’s built in to the operating system. The Mac has Security & Privacy settings you can adjust to make it more secure. Apple’s Gatekeeper software manages which apps can be installed on your Mac, and its settings are under the “General” tab.

“Allow apps downloaded from” is what I’m referring to. It has three settings: “Mac App Store,” “Mac App Store and identified developers,” and “Anywhere.”

The first two options check for the presence of digital certificates that Apple has verified, a good way to make sure the application you’re downloading is what it’s supposed to be. The Mac App Store option restricts that even further to only those applications you’ve purchased through Apple’s buiit-in Mac App Store.

Problems can happen when you set that option to “Anywhere.” Then the Mac doesn’t check to make sure the app is from a registered Apple developer, which means that it could come from anywhere. It’s an expert level setting that’s best not to use unless you feel comfortable with the potential risk involved. If your Mac is set to Anywhere, now would be a good time to change it.

How to change your Gatekeeper security settings

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Security & Privacy.
  3. Check the setting for 
  4. Click the lock in the lower left to make changes. Enter your administrator password and click Unlock.
  5. Change the “Allow apps downloaded from” setting to one of the first two, depending on your need.
  6. Close the Security & Privacy window to save changes.
Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper is a good first line of defense. If you’d like to make sure your Mac is free of malware, I’d recommend using Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware for Mac. It’s free, and it’s well-maintained by a company that sells anti-malware software for PC and business.

Mbam

Macs running Snow Leopard can’t run this software. If you’re in that boat, you should seriously think about upgrading your operating system or your hardware, because it’s really old and it’s not going to be supported for much longer. Having said that, ClamXav still supports machines running 10.6 and later.

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