Can Macs Get Viruses

Can Macs Get Viruses

Can Macs get viruses?

Yes, they can. 

Now you can get on with whatever it is you would rather be doing or you can read on and get some tips on how to avoid it happening to you.

My Mac was attacked last night but it was unsuccessful so I thought I would write a blog to show you how to avoid becoming a victim.

Many people think that because Macs run on Unix code and have inbuilt protection they are safe. The other factor often mentioned is that as there are fewer Mac than Windows machines the bad guys don’t bother creating viruses or malware for them.

The bad news, if you have a Mac, is that this is not true. It may have been once but not anymore. I’m not trying to sell anti-virus software though. This post is to give you some tips on how you can secure your Mac. Most of it is fairly straightforward and won’t cost you anything, other than a bit of your time.

This is a virus detection on my Mac in September 2017
This is a virus detection on my Mac in September 2017

As the screenshot above shows my Mac was attacked by a W97M Trojan, which is designed to steal your banking details. This came embedded in a regular email newsletter from a trusted source.

This came embedded in a regular email newsletter from a trusted source.

The virus scanner caught and quarantined the files which are embedded in a Word file. If you open the file and allow macros to run then the Trojan installs the Spybot software that is designed to steal online banking details.

So, even if I hadn’t installed virus protection there were a couple of actions required before the malware was installed but would you or a member of your staff open a document from a trusted source? I think you probably would and this presents a risk you need to address now before it happens. 

How can I secure my Mac?

Here are some things you can do to make sure your Mac is secure. 

Turn on your firewall.

You may think it will come enabled but by default it is disabled.  To turn it on go to your settings page and select Security & Privacy. You will then click on the padlock at the bottom left of the window, enter your administrator’s password and then turn on the firewall.

It should just take care of itself after you turn it on but if you have any problems getting applications to work then turn it off again and see if that cures the problem. You shouldn’t get any problems but you may be using software that doesn’t want to work properly, in which case you’ll need some help from your software provider.Turn on Mac Firewall

Install some anti-virus software.

I use McAfee because my ISP is BT and they provide McAfee free to install on all of my machines. Your ISP may provide a free one or you can shop around and find one that suits your purpose. Sophos provide free AV software for Macs and it seems to have a good reputation.

Use a strong password.

There are three settings here you should pay attention to.

The first is the one which allows you to set a password for your account.

The next allows you to specify if a password is needed to unlock your Mac when it goes to sleep or a screen saver begins.

If you work in an office with other people, you should consider switching this setting on.

You can specify how soon after sleep or the start of a screen saver the password is required. The most secure setting is ‘immediately’ but, like everything else to do with security, you need to balance security and convenience. So choose a time period that makes sense to you.

If you are using a MacBook then you really do need to set it to lock within a few minutes, just in case you accidentally leave it on the train, like civil servants do. Don’t forget to disable the automatic login or it’s all a waste of time!

Encrypt your hard drive.

In the security and setting section, there is a tab called FileVault. Click it and enable FileVault. Choose whether to unlock your files using your icloud account or with a key.  

Your hard drive will then encrypt everything. It will take a while, depending on how much data you have but it will do it in the background while you work on.  

This is particularly important if you are using an external hard drive or SSD because someone could just pick it up and be away with it. Filevault page

Turn off Bluetooth.

but not if you are using a Bluetooth mouse, trackpad or keyboard. You are probably quite safe using Bluetooth on your desktop Mac but on your Macbook, you are exposing yourself to potential threats if you are out in the world with it switched on.

Enable two-step authentication wherever you can.

Most applications, websites etc will now offer you 2 step authentication that involves them sending you a text or email message with a code to enter whenever you try to access or change anything like a password. This will prevent someone hacking into your account.

It works. Someone tried to hack my wife’s account last week but the 2 step authentication meant she was notified and was able to go and change her password as a precaution.

Use a VPN

If you are out and about with your Macbook use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

I’m not saying your favourite coffee shop wifi is dodgy but if you connect to any network that isn’t yours, you are at risk.  

There are loads of VPN services available. Most of them are paid for so you can shop around and find one that suits you.

I don’t use a lot of unsecured wifi, preferring to use my phone to tether my laptop and use 4G networks but I do use a VPN called TunnelBear for occasions when I have no alternative. It is free for a limited amount of data.

You could set your own up on your home router if it’s capable of providing a VPN solution and that would be free. You would need to have a reasonable broadband speed at home otherwise your connection would be too slow and that’s annoying.

It’s not that easy to setup if you’re not clued up on it but it’s an option you could explore. You can’t do it with the standard router BT give you.

Turn off sharing.

If you don’t need to have sharing on then turn it off. You may need to share stuff but most people won’t. Make sure none of the boxes on the left are ticked.Mac sharing

Don’t click on links or open documents in emails unless you are sure you know what they are.

As I mentioned at the start of this post you can’t even trust emails from organisations or people you know because their accounts may have been hacked and are being used by bad guys. This has happened to me on 3 occasions in the past few months where a company I have done business with has been hacked and used to send out malware or phishing attacks. When the GDPR comes into force I hope companies start paying a lot more attention to their security.

So that was a quick 9 steps to securing your Mac. I hope you have found it useful but if you need anything more specific please get in touch. If I don’t know the answer then I have associates who can help you.

If you would like to receive regular stuff about making your company more resilient then please complete the boxes and I will add you to the list.

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