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3 free Mac anti virus programs and one fake

Date: 4th May 2011

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There are few viruses for the Apple Mac and compared to Windows PCs it is a very safe and secure environment. It's partly because virus writers don't bother to write Mac viruses and not because it is impossible. It is certainly possible to write Mac viruses, Trojans and other types of malware, but so far the operating system has remained clear of the vast majority of them. There is no room for complacency though and only recently a new malware threat has emerged for Mac users and has been making the news and blog websites. Here are the details of the threat and three free anti virus programs that will keep your Mac safe.

Malware authors for Windows have found that one of the most successful methods of infecting a computer is to trick people into thinking it is already infected. A cleverly constructed web page that contains images of icons and dialogs that look like real Windows ones or real security software is displayed in the web browser. The page may also simulate browser warnings too. It looks like the computer is infected with some nasty malware and it is suggested that the user downloads a utility to clean it up. The one offered is the real malware. The download may be triggered automatically so you don't even need to click anything.

Now this technique has been seen on the Mac. Security company Intego has warned Mac users that there is a fake anti virus program called MACDefender. This automatically downloads and if it is run then it installs itself into OS X, running automatically every time you start the computer. As it is a Mac app, it is beuatifully designed and looks great! It is still malware though. It displays fake virus alerts, opens web pages showing porn, and so on. It prompts you to register the program for a fee so you can clean the (fake) infections off your Mac.

VirusBarrier Express

Of course, Intego isn't just blogging about fake anti virus programs for your own good, it aims to scare you into buying its own anti virus program. VirusBarrier X6 is the real deal though and it really does protect you against various types of malware on the Mac.

VirusBarrier Express is a free version of the program that provides some, but not complete protection from malware. Basically, it is a cleanup tool, so it won't stop your Mac being infected, but you can scan it manually using quick and full scans, you can drop suspicious files on it to check that they are OK and you can schedule regular scans.


ClamXav uses the popular open source ClamAV anti virus engine which works across Mac, Linux and Windows.

The Mac software offers manual scanning of the files on the disk and you just select the folder or disk to scan, such as your home folder, documents, library and so on, or it can automatically check files as they are added or created.

It goes a bit further than VirusBarrier Express and it provides some real-time protection, which is a bonus. ClamXav Sentry is an extra component that can be set to monitor one or more folders for changes.

If a file is created or modified then it is automatically scanned.

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition

Sophos Anti-Virus is an excellent anti virus program and it is a full product rather than a 'lite' cut down version.

It offers real-time protection for example and it adds an icon to the menu bar at the top of the screen so you can access it at any time.

Scanning is straightforward and can be started with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Custom scans can be defined too. Infected files can be removed or moved to a quarantine where they are made safe. This can be useful if you need a file that has an attached virus.

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