Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mac: Apple Releases Security Update 2011-003 (Mac Defender, et. al security update.)

Apple has released a 2.1MB security update to help deal with the Mac Defender, Mac Guard, etc..issues.

The update is available on the Apple website, or via Apple Software Updater.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mac: Mac Defender gets a new variant - Mac Guard

Reports have uncovered a new variant of the Mac Defender virus/malware for Mac's, called Mac Guard.  This seems to be an evolution of the Mac Defender, in much the same way many PC-based virus' shift and change to avoid detection and removal.

What this malware has evolved with is now the Mac Guard version doesn't ask you to authenticate administrator credentials, allowing it to feel less problematic when it starts it's install process.

While Apple is planning to release updates to OS X to help deal with this, I would recommend installing some sort of antivirus in the mean time.  Sophos does offer a free home antivirus that will help with that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mac: Apple responds to Mac Defender malware.

Previously, it's been Apple's policy and practice not to acknolwedge the malware Mac Defender, as noted by ZDNet's article.  However, recently Apple has acknowledged the Mac Defender maleware issue with the release of their Knowledge Base article.

Apple also indicates that they will be sending out an update to OS X that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender and it's variants.

Friday, May 20, 2011

PC: Traveling Light with Portable Apps.

The school season is winding down and we're now looking forward to rushing into the summer, where hopefully we'll get time to do some vacationing.  And just in case you can't completely get away from begin able to check email and such, there is an option out there to let you travel very light by using a suite of applications on a jump-drive you an take with you.

With a 1GB or larger jump drive, you can use PortableApps.Com's application suite you can tote your email, websites, even a suite of office applications with you in case you need to keep an eye out for email you're expecting, or need to edit a document for a client and get it back to them.  All this on a little jump drive instead of totting around your laptop.  Just use the local library or hotel's business center.  The best part is, you just unplug the jump drive and take it with you, leaving all your documents, email, browser favorites and such on your jump drive.

This is an ideal tool as well if you're a student who can't afford your own computer at school.  With the jump drive in hand, you can plug into any student computer at school and be able to access all your documents, email, web browser with favorites, etc.  Just don't forget to unplug it and take it with you!

Unfortunately, PortableApps doesn't have a portable version of DropBox installed with it.  This would make a very nifty tool even more keen.  However, there is a 3rd party add-on, DropBoxU3.  Just remember: If you've upgraded your dropbox past the 2GB free version, you need to account for having enough space to sync anything you put into your Dropbox onto your jump drive.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

PC: Fighting Malware, Spyware and Viruses - Malwarebytes

One of the main tools I use to remove Malware, Spyware and Virus', besides a good antivirus, is the Malwarebytes product.  It comes in two forms, the free version and the paid, pro version.

For the home user, the free version is a great tool for when you 'suspect' that something funny is going on.  Maybe you're getting an odd pop-up in your web browser you don't expect, or some of your applications have had some odd behaviors.  If that's the case, then the free version will help you ferret out any Malware issues you may have.

Installation is very straight forward, as detailed by Malwarebytes own Installation Video.

If you're in real trouble, you can boot your system in Safe Mode with Networking (Windows 7 version of Safe Mode with Networking) and run, or install and run this product.  Doing a full scan may take a while, however the average quick-scan only takes about 10 minutes.  But, if you suspect something is 'hinky', you should definitely take the time to run the full scan.

MajorGeeks has done a bit of a Video Tutorial and review showing how to use the product, and they've done an excellent job showing how the product works.

The think to remember between the free and pro versions is that with the pro version you get more automation while the free version is all manual, and there are some added pro-active protection options with the pro version.  All-in-all, this is an excellent product that I would highly recommend having around, just in case.

PC: Free Antivirus Options

I've been writing a good deal about the OS X and malware for the Mac, which is much newer than the same territory on the PC side.  However, that doesn't mean that PC users don't need the same attention.  I've seen and used several free, home antivirus options out there.  There are three that are top-of-mind when it comes to this sort of thing.


The AVG is a fine product to provide free, basic virus and anti-spyware protection. You don't get a great deal of nagging to upgrade, and it does automatic updates. But, you need to register to get their free code for a year, then re-register each ear to continue to get the free service.

Avast!: avast! be free

The Avast! product does a fine job as well, but one of the things that bothers me about it is that while it does it's nightly updates and scans, when it's done, it boldly announces it.  So, if you leave your PC speakers turned on, and heave help you turned up, at three o'clock in the morning, you may be awakened to your computer announcing that it's virus-free.

Microsoft: Microsoft Security Essentials

This is my pick of these options.  There's no need to register every year, no loud announcements that you're virus-free.  It doesn't feel like it has a large memory footprint in your system, and typically it does it's job and moves on through.  It updates with Windows, it's color coded so you'll know when you need to give it some attention for a more immediate update or that it's trapped something in quarantine and wants to delete it.  However, one of the best things about it is that you can use it for Small Business as well as home.  Microsoft happily allows you to use it on up to 10 PC's in your small office.  And for small, even tiny businesses, that's a major boon.

Reguardless of which of these you go with, don't leave your computer unprotected.  With something, you're far better off than nothing!

PS - Don't be fooled by products that may have made their way onto your system like McAfee Security Scanner or Norton Security Scanner, these products are a 'lite' application and their job is just to scan, not to fix.  They want you to upgrade to their plus, or full version of antivirus software.

PPS - Don't run two antivirus protection software products at the same time! They will slow your system down signifigantly.  They'll battle one another back and forth for whose scanning what, eat up system resources and you'll wish your computer only laggy.  Pick one and stick with it.

Mac Antivirus Options

For some time, Apple's virus security has been something that hasn't been as necessary as in the world of PC's, simply because the market share was low enough it wasn't a noticable target.  However, as Mac's are becoming more and more popular, the target on their backs grows larger and larger as well.

Gizmodo did a nifty article as a Antivirus Faceoff, which is a nice comparison of a number options out there for Mac's.  There are several vendors not covered, such as Symantec, however within the group are a couple of free options, including Sophos Antivirus for Mac Home Edition, which aside from it's regular recommendation to upgrade to the paid version, is a pretty solid product.

Follow Up: Some other details on MAC Defender virus.

Here are a few more follow up items I found about the MAC Defender virus, as well as a few variants.

The Mac Security Blog: MAC Defender Memo, MacProtector Memo.
MacRumors: MAC Defender.

Apple Malware in the Wild.

Recnetly there has been a noticable up-tick in the number of Virus or Malware cases for Mac's in the wild.  Most prominently is the MAC Defender scareware that tells you that you're infected, and wants you to give up $40 for their software to remove the infections. Of course MAC Defender is the infection.

Fortunately, it's not too difficult to remove this little bug on your own. You can find removal instructions for the MAC Defender malware, as well as it's variant MacProtector on the Fix-KB website.

ZDNet has an interview with an AppleCare Rep that talks about how intense the up-tick is, as well as an article with sources from the Apple Support Forums.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How SSD's Work.

I ran across this podcast interview with Scott Mouton of MyHardDriveDied.com  by George Starcher on the Typical Mac User Podcast.  Scott does a great job describing just how an SSD works, as well as which ones work faster and last longer and why!

Typical Mac User Podcast

It talks about what TRIM support is, and why it's important.

OS X 10.6.7 TRIM Support

Mac Rumors has posted an article showing how to enable TRIM support for non-Apple SSD's.  Currently OS X 10.6 only supports Apple-branded SSD's with TRIM support.  This patch should allow OEM SSD's a chance at the coveted OS X operating system.

TRIM Support Enabler