Threats and Protection

Mac users are just as prone to scams, viruses and hackers as anyone else, even when some people think that the comparative lack of Mac security threats is down to Apple’s small market share. Here’s a quick breakdown of what users need to know about hackers, viruses and scammers.

Threats and Protection

Hackers

The term hacker is somewhat fuzzy, as its original meaning is a legitimate computer programmer. Its popular definition means someone who wants to break into, or meddle with, your computer. Hackers may be professionals out to steal your secrets. They also may be a “script kiddy” playing with a prefab Trojan. They might be a vandal, a spy, a thief or simply just exploring. As far as you’re concerned. It doesn’t matter. We don’t want them or their handiwork inside our computers.

You’re much less prone to all kinds of online privacy threats if you regularly install the latest patches and updates. Run Apple icon – Software Update every week or so and always accept any security fixes or OS X upgrades that you are offered.

Firewalls

One of the best ways to avoid hackers is to activate a firewall. A firewall can be either a hardware device or a piece of software. It prevents people from being able to detect and invade your computer via the Internet. Mac OS X comes with a pretty decent firewall installed, but you may need to turn it on.

To turn the firewall on, open System Preferences – Security, click the Firewall tab and select Block all incoming connections. For most users, that’s all they need to know. But if any Internet-related applications stop working after the user switch on the Firewall, it probably isn’t a coincidence. Try turning the Firewall, but probably isn’t a coincidence. Users can try turning the Firewall off again and, if that solves the problem. It’s possible to choose the Limit incoming connections… option and the + button to add specific applications to the allow list (this will open the relevant “ports” for the application in question).

The firewall built in to OS X is good enough for most home users, but if you’re really worried about intrusions, or you want to be able to monitor all the network traffic coming in and out of your machine, grab a third-party application. When you activate any of the sharing options under the System Preferences – Sharing, the relevant type of network traffic is automatically added to OS X’s Firewall “allow” list.

Viruses

Mac users, as all other computer users, are also at risk from viruses, worms, Trojans and other malware. There is no reason why a killer OS X virus shouldn’t emerge next week, and companies with scanning software are aware of that. In truth, though, the risks are less serious than those menacing PC users. But after all there are dozens of hundreds of viruses in circulation, and the majority of us have suffered from viruses. If you want the extra protections of virus software, you can install one or a few popular antivirus programs, such as Norton AntiVirus, McAfee Virex or other.

Note than most of the viruses that have affected pre-OS X Macs were macro viruses, spread via Microsoft Word and Excel docs. If you ever receive a doc with embedded macros, choose the Disable Macros option when asked.

Spyware

Spyware is a software designed to snoop on your computing activity. Commonly spyware is planted by some kind of marketeer, who wants to find out about your online surfing and spending habits. But it might be even more sinister: a keystroke-logger that records whatever you type when, say, logging in to an Internet banking site.

Many computers in our days are infected with some kind of spyware (mostly the non-dangerous types). Macs users aren’t safe, so you may think to install the Spyware scanning package even if you don’t believe there’s a snitch in your system.

Scams

Mac users are no less susceptible to online scams than PC users, and the scams are often much more threatening than hackers or viruses.

Phishing: This is a cunning form of online scam in which someone pretends to be from your bank, ISP, online payment system or any other such body. These fishermen ask you to hand over your personal information either directly or via a webpage.

How it works? Here is one of the examples: A scammer sends out a mass email claiming to be from a bank, with a link pointing to a webpage purportedly on a real bank’s website. In fact, all the details are slightly incorrect, but the recipient is supposed not to notice the difference and assume the email is legitimate. The recipient follows thus the instructions and “confirm” the online banking details on the fake site. In the process people gives their personal banking details to criminals who can then empty the account of the victim. The moral: ever respond to emails or instant messages requesting your personal data, private banking information and so on, however legitimate they seem.

Never respond to spam! Those “get paid to surf”, “stock tips,” work from home”, “recruit new members”, “clear your credit rating” or any other network-marketing schemes always are obvious: they look too good to be true. It should go without saying that ringing a number to claim a prize is a stupid idea.

Paying by credit cards online is usually safe, since credit cards offer some degree of protection against fraud, business going bankrupt before you actually receive the goods, and so on. Read the fine print on your agreement for specifics, but normally you’re only liable for a set amount. You also might be able to pay a yearly surcharge to fully protect your card against fraud, though this is usually bad value unless you think you’re more at risk than other clients. If you suspect you’ve been wrongly charged, ask your bank what to do, but also contact the site in question – some of them may even pick up the bill if you’ve been conned.

Only enter you card details on secure webpages, which begin with https://. A little lock symbol must appear on your browser window. If you are concerned about a site’s security, shop elsewhere or phone through your order, but never send your credit card details by email.

Don’t give extra information, as you need to provide only your name, billing address, delivery address, credit card number, account name, expiry date, the three-digit security code on the signature strip when you make an online purchase. Never give your social security number, health insurance details, driving license or passport number.

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Links

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