Search Results for: "OS X"

Mac OS X Now Comes with Antivirus

Some people make the assumption that Macs can’t get malware, that it’s somehow a Windows-only problem. Unfortunately that’s not the case, any computer can get malware such as viruses and trojans (read here for some examples). And there are some companies that already make antivirus software for Macs.

Further evidence of the need for antivirus software on Macs is given by Apple themselves. They’ve made their own antivirus software for the latest version of OS X (called Snow Leopard). This built-in antivirus software is very limited at the moment:

  • It can only scan files downloaded from a small number of programs (so it doesn’t scan “everything”), and
  • At the moment it can only detect 2 trojans

If you’re a Mac user you can read more here. My point is that you should do everything possible to protect your computer from malware, scams, etc. Assuming that your computer is somehow superior and invulnerable just doesn’t cut it.

Mac OS X Update

Image courtesy of Apple Apple has released a major update to Mac OS X. If you use a Mac you should first make a good backup of your computer then apply this update.

It patches over 40 security vulnerabilities (don’t let anyone tell you Macs are completely safe and invulnerable). The latest version is 10.5.3.

Facebook Gets Tough On Malware

Facebook are stepping things up a notch and getting tough on malware, in a good way. Their latest initiative can detect malware on your computer. If anything suspicious is found, your Facebook account is temporarily locked (to prevent the malware sending spam using your account), and you’ll be asked to download an anti-virus program called McAfee Scan & Repair. There’s also an option to use Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).

This new procedure can also be invoked manually, if you suspect your computer might be infected. The link is, and you’ll need to enter your password. Note: when entering passwords, always look at the address bar at the top of your browser and make sure it’s genuine – in this case, it needs to have in the address.

If your account is temporarily locked because malware was detected or because you manually started the procedure, you won’t be able to unlock the account until you finish the virus scan.

This is all for Windows. OS X users will have a slightly different procedure.

There are more details on Facebook’s web site.

Flash Cookies

Some people know what a cookie is, what it’s good for and how it can be abused. If you don’t here’s a very short summary:

  • Cookies are codes that web sites save to your computer
  • They’re used to help web sites remember who you are. E.g. when you log onto eBay and come back the next day, it remembers who you are.
  • Marketing companies use them to keep track of how many of their ads you saw and where you might have seen them

So they’re not really a bad thing but marketing companies use them to track things about you. Then there are programs that try to delete them off your PC. Usually these programs are branded with words like “anti-spyware”, this isn’t completely accurate but that’s where you’ll see them. This is all fine so far.

And you can always delete cookies yourself. In Internet Explorer there’s an option in the Tools menu. All other browsers have similar options, usually in a tools or settings menu.

But there’s another kind of cookie that often gets overlooked – they’re called Flash cookies.

Unlike regular cookies, Flash cookies are not stored in your web browser’s settings. Deleting all privacy data leaves Flash cookies alone. Even deleting all cookie files off your drive skips Flash cookies.

Flash has a feature that lets web sites store a bit of information on your computer, just like a regular “cookie”. By itself this is harmless, but some developers have taken advantage of its features and use them to track you just like regular cookies. This by itself could be seen as a minor annoyance, it’s not dangerous.

But it’s also possible for a web site to restore a cookie that you deleted. Now this is a misuse of privacy. You see, when you tell your computer to delete all privacy data, and it later reappears, things are happening against your will – this is morally bad. The way they do it is developers create some code that uses Flash to store a copy of a cookie and if the cookie is gone it rewrites it.

What can you do about it?

On Windows you can install “Better Privacy” or “Ccleaner”.

On Mac OS X you can install “” or delete the Flash cookie files the hard way.

There’s also a great deal more information in this article.

It’s now up to Adobe (the company that makes Flash) and web browsers to treat this as a privacy bug and to improve their browsers.

Can Malware Damage Your PC?

We all know that malware can steal your passwords, cause you to lose money, and spread itself to other PCs. But can malware actually cause damage to your PC?

The short answer is yes.

A botnet is a collection of infected PCs under a hacker’s control. There are millions of PCs today forming these botnets (millions of infected home computers being controlled by hackers). Some new research on botnets shows that they sometimes include code to completely disable the PC.

In April 2009 a malicious hacker decided to “kill” the PCs he was controlling using a botnet. It disabled Windows on 100,000 computers, making all those PCs useless until a technician can repair it. (This is a slight simplification but for the general public it’s accurate enough). These 100,000 computers belonged to real people using their computers at home or at the office. One day it just stopped working because a malicious hacker thought it’d be fun. You can read more detailed information about this here.

And then there are other malware (viruses etc) that can damage the PC in more serious ways. In March 2009 researches created a sample malware that writes itself to the computer’s BIOS (the BIOS is inside a chip inside the PC) . Reformatting the PC won’t remove it, buying a new hard drive won’t remove it either, and they claim that even a “BIOS flash” won’t remove it. You’d have to buy a new PC (or if you’re technical, a new motherboard) to fix it. More info here.

In the past there have been viruses that could damage drives and monitors but there’s been very little of this lately.

So overall malware can cause your PC to visit a repair shop for servicing, which is not only an inconvenience but also costly. It’s always better to prevent malware than to repair the damage (and often you may not know a PC is infected). And the usual tips apply here:

  • Use a good anti-virus package, the kind that updates itself several times a day and scans web pages as well as files. They’re not expensive.
  • Always patch and update your programs, including your operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X).
  • Never assume it can’t happen to you or that your computer is somehow better than others.
  • Use one of the newer browsers such as FireFox, Chrome, or Opera. Read about browser hacking here.
  • Don’t download programs from hacker sites such as password generators (they’re usually infected with malware).
  • Don’t be tricked into installing something to watch a funny video. If your computer can’t play the video as it is then it’s probably not worth watching. Read more about it here.
  • Don’t be tricked by fake anti-virus programs. Examples here.
  • And backup your files. Do this often.


Another Mac trojan. There’s a program for Macs called MacCinema Installer. The filename is: Flash.Player.Update.v9.19.dmg. Some web sites claim that you need to install it to watch their videos.

When you install it, it adds something to your Mac so that every 5 hours it will try to download malware. So if your Mac becomes infected with malware and you clean it, in 5 hours it’ll download another one. This is pretty common these days.

So if you come across MacCinema don’t install it. And if a web site tells you that you need to install something to watch their videos, don’t trust it (this applies to Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows).

Browser Hacking Competition Results

There is a competition where people try to hack web browsers (they call it Pwn2own) , the winners get thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. Below are the results of the competition. It says a lot about which web browsers are safer than others:

  • Safari running on Mac OS X – hacked in 10 seconds
  • FireFox running on Windows – hacked
  • IE 8 running on Windows – hacked
  • Chrome running on Windows – was not hacked

When a web browser is hacked (like in this competition), it means someone out there in the real world can do things on your computer, such as installing a virus or taking control of your PC.

You can see photos of the winners here. These are talented people that are using their skills to help developers fix their browsers. There are many more people who use their hacking skills to install malware and steal money from people’s bank accounts (this isn’t just about winning competitions).

The best thing you can do right now is:

  • Stop using Internet Explorer (IE) for everything.
  • Use Google’s Chrome as much as possible, at the moment it seems to be the most secure browser
  • Keep updating your web browser – the latest updates are there to fix up bugs and security vulnerabilities
  • Keep updating Windows (or Mac OS X or Linux) whenever a new update is released.
  • Install a good anti-virus package that blocks web sites that have malware on them. This might cost you a bit of money (you usually have to pay a yearly subscription fee) and it’s a good investment.
  • Don’t be ignorant and assume it won’t happen to you.
  • Keep reading Fraudo to learn about online fraud and what you can do to prevent it.

TrueCrypt 6.0

TrueCrypt is an encryption program we wrote about earlier. It lets you do things like "whole disk encryption" (good for people who carry around laptops full of confidential files), and other encryption functions.

Version 6.0 came out a few days ago. It’s open source, meaning everyone is free to review the source code. It’s available for Windows (Vista, XP, 2000), Mac OS X, and Linux.