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Virus aimed at Mac OS X

Question : I heard that a virus aimed at the Mac OS X operating system was starting to go around. Do I need an antivirus program for my Mac now?

Answer : Although most Internet worms and viruses aim at Windows PCs, two worms aimed at Macintosh computers surfaced in February. Most computer virus experts say both worms are low risk, but their existence shows that virus writers are paying attention to the Apple platform and are proving it is possible to infect a Mac.

On Feb. 16, researchers at Sophos, a security company based in Britain, discovered the OSX/Leap-A worm (also known as OSX/Oompa-A) spreading through the iChat instant-messaging program in an infected file disguised as a JPG photo, and announced it as "the first-ever Mac OS X virus." A day later, Symantec, the American computer security firm, was among the first to announce another worm, called OSX/Inqtana-A, which tries to spread itself over a wireless Bluetooth connection.

While the danger from these two worms is minimal, running an antivirus program on your Mac can help protect against future threats that may prove more sinister, while also squashing the spread of viruses hiding in mail from PC users. Keeping your Mac up to date with security patches from Apple is also a good idea. A patch for the Bluetooth vulnerability exploited by the Inqtana worm is available.

Antivirus programs for Mac OS X home users include Norton Antivirus from Symantec (www.symantec.com) and Intego VirusBarrierX4 (www.intego.com). Virex from McAfee (www.mcafee.com) and Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac OS X (www.sophos.com) offer options for protecting multiple Macs in a small office.

There have also been some reports of malicious code invading a Mac through an archived file downloaded and automatically opened by Apple's Safari Web browser. To prevent the browser from automatically opening files, go into the program's Preferences area under the Safari menu, and on the General tab, uncheck the box next to "Open 'safe' files automatically after downloading."


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